Last October, our Five on Five panel of Chuck Araneta, Charlie Cuna, Carlo Pamintuan, Jutt Sulit, and Noel Zarate made their picks for the 12 PBA players who they think will be named to the 24-man Gilas pool. Two months into the new PBA season, much has happened by way of trades, breakout performances, and retirement announcements revoked. With the 24-man pool to be announced on January 22, we decided to revisit each writer’s list and and ask them to give it a makeover.
But first, a refresher. Here’s what their lists looked like last October:
1. After two months of PBA action, are you making any changes in your 12-man list of PBA players in the Gilas pool (in addition to players who have since been traded, i.e. Carlo Lastimosa)?
Chuck: I’m including a few new guys into my Gilas 12.
I’ll put Carlo Lastimosa instead of Asi Taulava for NLEX, and insert Arthur Dela Cruz for Blackwater. Since my Aldrech Ramos pick has now moved to Star where Paul Lee is currently playing at, he’s gone from the list. The Mahindra Floodbuster pick is an interesting one, since their go-to guy Alex Mallari isn’t eligible. So I’ll go with a supremely hipster pick and choose Joseph Eriobu from Mahindra.
I’m also changing my pick for the Meralco Bolts. With Jimmy Alapag retired, I’m picking rookie Jonathan Grey for his ability to handle the ball, shoot from the outside and penetrate as well.
So in summary: I’m changing the picks of four squads; the other eight remain the same.
Charlie: Since the list is supposed to be composed of just one (1) player per PBA team, since Aldrech Ramos was traded from Mahindra to Star, and I already listed Paul Lee as the Star man in the Gilas pool, then I am supposed to choose someone else from Mahindra. However, looking up and down the current roster, it is very difficult. Russel Escoto is in by virtue of being a Gilas cadet, but finding one of his teammates to join him is proving to be quite a task. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who fits, and those who might are, as far as I know, not eligible (e.g., all-around guy Mallari, shooter di Gregorio). I’ll go with LA Revilla. He will test the other guards in the pool on a daily basis and challenge them to step up their game, if only to prove they have more heart than he does. That would be a difficult task as well, as LA plays with the heart of a lion.
Carlo: When we made our initial list, I thought of the long term; from now until 2020 so I looked past Greg Slaughter’s current injury because I thought he won’t need to join the team this year. However, I now think Gilas will need a healthy 24-man pool from Day 1. There’ll be no 2019 FIBA World Cup without winning the SEABA competitions so we’ll need to form a strong team immediately.
Japeth Aguilar mentioned to me before that Gilas 4.0 could possibly be the last one for him but with Jayson Castro reportedly reneging on his international retirement for one more run, I think Aguilar would do the same.
I’ll also replace Troy Rosario with Castro even though I know it would be immaterial since MVP teams will end up lending more players.
I’m also picking Arthur Dela Cruz over JP Erram and Jonathan Grey over Baser Amer.
I have no idea which player to pick from Mahindra. Maybe LA Revilla.
Jutt: It pains me to have to take Marc Pingris and LA Tenorio out of my initial 12 but I’ll have to make room for Japeth Aguilar and Paul Lee. The international game is different but Japeth’s recent emergence with Ginebra says a lot about his game’s maturity. Paul is still one of the country’s best scoring guards. That earns him his slot. And since Aldrech Ramos got traded, I’ll now go with LA Revilla.
Noel: Well, since Aldrech Ramos is no longer with the Floodbuster squad, I’ll have to go with Jason Ballesteros in the pool as a development project. Ballesteros was in the original Gilas 1.0 roster and at 6’8″ with decent defensive instincts, he’ll be a good project and maybe can blossom under Coach Chot Reyes, That being said, I’ll put Carlo Lastimosa in for NLEX over the ailing Asi Taulava. Gilas is looking towards future premises as well and going young might just be the main mandate now. If Jayson Castro unretires, that may put my Troy Rosario consideration in peril, but I’ll still go for height (with range) at this point. Other than that, I’m sticking to my original picks.
2. Which team do you think poses the toughest decision for Coach Chot?
Chuck: San Miguel Beermen. There’s a treasure trove of players to choose from on that squad. Trying to choose between June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter is probably a nightmare, and wholly depends on the other players that will be made available, including Andray Blatche.
I don’t envy Coach Chot. He’s got a tough choice to make.
Charlie: Mahindra, as related above.
Carlo: I think Star presents a unique situations because Paul Lee’s talent is undeniable but Marc Pingris deserves one last run with the team he has served for the past few years.
Ginebra is also a tough pick with LA Tenorio and Scottie Thompson as possible pool members.
Mahindra presents a different problem because no name pops out.
Jutt: Without a doubt, Mahindra. I’m just not sure they have players who are both eligible and ready for the international game.
Noel: Star, San Miguel and RoS. Paul Lee has proven that he is still among the best guards in the league, but Marc Pingris is still a solid vocal leader and the personification of “Puso”. June Mar Fajardo should be the cornerstone of the team, but it’s had to snub what Marcio Lassiter brings to the table. In the case of the Elastopainters, it’s a three way headache with the defensive tenacity of Raymond Almazan, the international grit brought in by Gabe Norwood and the consistent sniping of Jeff Chan.
3. Who are your three shoo-ins?
Chuck: Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo and Gabe Norwood. Hindsight has shown that not having Abueva available to compete with the world’s best really hurt us during the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Terrence Romeo is also a lock because of his offensive prowess and his ever expanding game. And Gilas just wouldn’t be Gilas without Game Norwood to provide leadership and steady contributions.
Charlie: June Mar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo. (If Jayson Castro is really going to play again, I would put him in this list, in place of June Mar.)
Carlo: I’ll go with the three players that coach Chot Reyes has already won with in Jayson Castro, June Mar Fajardo, and Gabe Norwood.
Jutt: Fajardo, Romeo and Rosario.
Noel: Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva and June Mar Fajardo. Romeo has shown he can thrive in the international game and under Reyes could learn to be more of legit point guard (his assists numbers have already picked up this season under Franz Pumaren). I’m pretty sure many have already realized that the exclusion of Abueva in last year’s OQT squad was a mistake and that won’t happen again. Fajardo, as I mentioned above, should be the cornerstone of Gilas for the next five years–at least.
4. You think there’s room for a Ray Parks or some other non-PBA player?
Chuck: Nope. The 24 players that will be chosen will be more than enough to compete with Asia’s best this year. The team is in win-now mode, and having veterans who Coach Chot can trust is absolutely crucial.
Charlie: Definitely. If any player is eligible to be on the team, is invited to play in the pool, and shows he has what it takes, then he should have a chance to be on the squad. The pool is there to train, assess talent, and to assemble the most competitive and cohesive line-up possible, no matter where the players currently play. I am not aware of any restriction imposed limiting the choices to PBA players, which means it’s really open season, and that’s the way it should be. First thing though, is that you need to be in the pool to even be considered. Once you are in it, then you have a chance.
Carlo: Depending on the need and the schedule of the competition, I think it could be possible. It’s really tough for the PBA teams to work around the new FIBA schedule and coach Chot Reyes might need to get creative at some point and look for help elsewhere.
Jutt: There should definitely be room in the pool for either Ray Parks or Kiefer Ravena. Or even Jeron Teng. He made a believer out of me with his UAAP Finals performance.
Noel: No. Parks will have his time in Gilas (he’s tearing up the Asean Basketball League in scoring now). The international exposure Parks is receiving now from Alab Pilipinas is gearing him up for a significant role in Gilas. He, Kiefer Ravena, Kobe Paras and the teenagers in development ensure that the national team has a bright future.
5. Which non-Gilas cadet rookie has the best shot at sneaking in?
Chuck: Jonathan Grey has been the best non-Gilas cadet rookie so far. He’s also my selection for the Meralco Bolts. A perfect fit!
Charlie: I’ll go with Jonathan Grey. He has shown a high basketball IQ, a better than average outside shot, and the ability to drive the lane so far in his very young PBA career. It boils down to being invited to the pool though, and the chances of Grey being included are not too high, since there are veteran Meralco players that will probably be considered before he would be.
Carlo: I think Jonathan Grey could be in the best situation because some of the other good candidates for Meralco such as Cliff Hodge and Chris Newsome won’t be allowed to play as locals by the FIBA rules.
Jutt: It would have to be Gelo Alolino. He’s had international experience and that could be his ticket to sneaking in.
Noel: Jonathan Grey. He’s got one of the highest basketball IQs in the league and with a little bit more toning, muscle and swag could actually dislodge the likes of Arnold Van Opstal, Fonzo Gotladera and even Kevin Ferrer from the trimmed pool. He has the makings of being a new version of Kenneth Duremdes. Grey might just surprise if he makes the pool.
Here are the updated picks: