What is old is new again.
Now I don’t know what prompted Tab Baldwin to bolt out of Gilas Pilipinas to concentrate on the Ateneo Blue Eagles... but it’s probably because of the shitstorm that is the pandemic.
Not only is it harmful to people... it’s also messing up with people’s minds. Baldwin is kind of an outspoken hothead and he probably hates the fact that most of his players are unavailable at the moment.
Note to self: I need to dispose of my Sekou Doumbouya basketball card collection.
With that said, putting Chot Reyes back isn’t a bad move. After all, he is the coach responsible for the offense that set the Philippine basketball map ablaze. Yes, he’ll always have the Australia debacle... but he also has the Korea and Senegal wins... as well as the near-shocker victories against Argentina, Serbia, and Greece.
But what does this mean?
Also, why do I believe that the Gilas Cadets program is one of the shittiest creations Philippine basketball has ever created?
Well, for starters, what the hell happened to the original Gilas core and whatever happened to the cadets of 2016 as well as the kids the program kept from 2019 to 2020?
(NOTE: AGES HERE ARE ROUNDED OUT TO THEIR DRAFT YEAR.)
The original Smart-Gilas version paved the way for the Gilas Pilipinas program. Coached by Rajko Toroman, Gilas assembled a collection of collegiate studs from the UAAP and the NCAA and even in the other regions to prepare for the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship. Back then, Greg Slaughter, Aldrech Ramos, Magi Sison, and JR Cawaling were still playing for their respective schools. June Mar Fajardo, Paul Lee, Raymond Almazan, and Calvin Abueva are some of the big college names that declined the offer while Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Rey Guevarra, and RJ Jazul dropped out of the team.
Of the players listed, only Chris Tiu, JV Casio, Mark Barroca, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, and Mac Baracael made the list. Aside from pre-Ginebra Japeth Aguilar and Marcus Douthit, the team also had Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Asi Taulava.
In 2016, the PBA ballclubs decided to just get a player from the 12 players included in the Gilas Cadets pool. Well, it was initially just eleven - because their 12th member, Almond Vosotros, has already played in the PBA. With that said, they just remedied this by signing Fonso Gotladera (there was talk that was either him or Jonathan Grey). Of the names listed in the special draft, four were chosen to represent the Philippines in the 2017 FIBA Asia Championship. Joining Jayson Castro, June Mar Fajardo, Aguilar, Gabe Norwood, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, and Raymond Almazan are Matthew Wright, Jio Jalalon, Carl Bryan Cruz, and RR Pogoy. 2017 PBA Draft top pick Christian Standhardinger got the part as its naturalized player.
Based on the Olympic qualifiers held in Serbia, the players listed in the special round that played are Jordan Heading, Will Navarro, Mike Nieto, and Isaac Go. Heading led the team in points but Navarro is the only player besides himself to score 20 or minutes. The other three 20+ mpg players in the squad are SJ Belangel, Ange Kouame, and Justine Baltazar. Go played backup to both Kouame and Kai Sotto. Matt Nieto also had to contend with RJ Abarrientos and this is to think that the team is also missing the services of Dwight Ramos. Rounding up the squad are Carl Tamayo and Geo Chiu.
I still hate the PBA for making that insane decision to hold a private special draft not only because they weren’t transparent to the public but it destroyed whatever importance the top pick has had. No disrespect to Ael Banal but he’s basically the de facto first name said on the draft. Moreover, because the special draft was announced in alphabetical order, Carl Bryan Cruz basically became the first player to be called in the draft. Again, Blackwater and Phoenix had the first two picks in that draft. Was the PBA hiding the fact that TNT, whose draft order would basically give them the floor in the third round of the draft, got Roger Pogoy from this meeting? It wouldn’t have been a crappy case if Fonso Gotladera – a last-minute insertion in the special round – was picked ahead of Pogoy?
I didn’t even include Garvo Lanete. Lanete won four of five NCAA titles from 2007 to 2011. He played alongside Sam Ekwe... as well as Sudan Daniel. This means he could have played in the PBA as early as 2011 – when he was just 22 years old but then he chose to enlist in the Gilas program up until he got drafted sixth overall by the NLEX Road Warriors in the 2015 PBA Draft.
But here’s the thing – it has been two years since the 2019 cadets had continuous basketball gameplay. And it’s not like they are showered with international tourneys. These players should at least have some sort of competitive gateway rather than the practices and the tapes they are checking out. Moreover, it’s not like they are basketball saviors. If you check out the recent FIBA tourneys, Tab Baldwin mostly used the guys who are playing outside the Philippines at the moment. Isaac Go may be the top pick of the 2019 PBA Draft but the team has Angelo Kouame now. Mike Nieto saw significant minutes in one tourney and then he takes a backseat to Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena or Dwight Ramos or Kobe Paras or SJ Belangel or RJ Abarrientos the next.
And this is the most important thing about Chot Reyes.
Reyes prefers PBA veterans over young upstarts. Sure, his whims could change especially with the developments of the young stars based outside the Philippines. With that said, he will most likely bring back the PBA’s star-making mystique by using the league’s current flock of young stars. CJ Perez and Robert Bolick are still good finds and the same can still be said with RR Pogoy, Greg Slaughter, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Troy Rosario, Poy Erram, and the players who can still juggle Gilas with their mother team responsibilities.
And what if FIBA allows Jordan Clarkson and Jalen Green to get some kind of Gilas-based action?
I am a fan of Chot Reyes. At times, he’s incredibly hysterical but being overly dramatic can also mean being extremely passionate. I can still remember him crying with the possibility of having numb knees when Gilas defeated Korea. I also see him marching proudly to shake the hands of the Senegalese team when the country scored their first FIBA World Cup win in almost forever. Yes, Baldwin is a better coach... but this is also the nth time he decided to relinquish his position. Reyes also has quit his post probably more than Baldwin but when we need him to deliver, he mostly does.
He also returned to TNT with a vengeance - piloting the squad to a title as if this is the 2010-11 PBA season. He also brought back Kelly Williams - who is basically the symbol of his ability to search talent because of his network of connections (also, see Matt Ganuelas-Rosser's return to TNT).
But this also spells bad news to the cadets. If you look at my table, Jordan Heading is the luckiest player from the last two special rounds because he managed to score star status as an import in Taiwan. In some ways, Terrafirma kind of lucked out because they still hold the draft rights to Isaac Go. Rey Suerte needs to look for his own path and go head to the Blackwater practice sessions. Allyn Bulanadi could see action with the Aces but I doubt if there are significant minutes for the Nieto Brothers in Yeng Guiao’s NLEX and the youth-centric Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. Tzaddy Rangel and Jaydee Tungcab were virtual mystery men in terms of pro ball production and I doubt if they score impact for their respective squads.
And also, Suerte is going to turn 28 in 2022 – which is a year older than when Chris Tiu finally applied for the PBA Draft in 2012. Tiu could have had a better career if he just joined his 2010 or 2011 buddies.
Or when he was an Allan Caidic prototype instead of the pass-first combo guard created by Rajko Toroman!
No offense to Tiu, Toroman, or the comparison I am going to name but instead of becoming the second version of Allan Caidic or at least a Noy Castillo, Tiu became the 2010s version of Paolo Mendoza – a sharpshooter that needed to act as a point guard because coaches thought it’s a good idea to transform a scorer into a playmaker because of his size.
Oh, I can still remember the Dubai games when Tiu had open looks but opted to pass to “involve his teammates”.
From the original Gilas team to the 2016 version, to the current list of Gilas cadets, the PBA, as well as the Gilas program, needs to understand that the whole idea of an amateur Gilas pool is bad. For the Gilas pool, it limits the players they want and while the amateurs are definitely going to play for their international tiffs, it would be better if they have some sort of on-the-job training.
At least for Chot Reyes now, it’s a whole different ballgame as he is not going to just rely on his PBA players but also the Fil-Am players that are playing ball all around the world.
This is kind of like the Philippine Azkals... or the adult version of Captain Tsubasa wherein they do their thing away from the team and return to the team as if nothing happened.