I get why Horror in Hanoi happened.
Like most Filipinos, we tend to underestimate our Southeast Asian brethren when it comes to basketball.
In some ways, I thought Chot Reyes had a problem right from the get-go. It's amazing to see the mentor go from his iconic reaction after the Philippines defeated South Korea in 2013 to his iconic reaction after Indonesia handed the Philippines their first silver medal in 33 years of dominance.
The team is littered with imports and kids. I know this setup can work for Tab Baldwin, but Reyes likes to use the pro ballers. Reyes would plant guys like Gabe Norwood or Kelly Williams or even Kevin Alas, Garvo Lanete, Thirdy Ravena, and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser back in the day but these pre-PBA guys were expected to do much.
So where are the pro ballers?
Sounding off on the Gilas players, June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rosario, Matthew Wright, Roger Pogoy, and Kiefer Ravena are the mainstays and has played internationally for Chot Reyes. Thirdy Ravena is also here and like Mo Tautuaa, Kib Montalbo, and Kevin Alas, has played under Chot Reyes but not as much as the aforementioned mainstays. Isaac Go, Lebron Lopez, and Will Navarro complete the 12-man lineup - basically holdovers from the Baldwin Era.
Let's call this as it is. This is not really a competitive team. At least, at the international level. The roster screams a TNT squad that just traded Jayson Castro for Matthew Wright and JP Erram, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, and Mikey Williams going to San Miguel for Fajardo and Tautuaa.
The Ravena Brothers and Kevin Alas are pretty much the significant add-ons... but not as much... in the sense of dominating the region's best players.
I will contest the all-pro roster claim. Go barely saw action with Terrafirma last season and Lopez and Navarro have yet to see any PBA action. This is evident in their match against Indonesia - wherein Reyes used only nine players and three of those players were held scoreless.
I am not dissing the players but at the moment, it's easy for the Indonesians to fear June Mar Fajardo or an Andray Blatche or even a Christian Standhardinger but it's going to be difficult for these aforementioned guys to scare our Southeast Asian brothers. They are not giants, they are not scorers, and if they look at the PBA as the place to see the best players, none of these three have made their way to league superstardom... at least, not just yet.
At the height of the Gilas program, when Marc Pingris, Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag, and Ranidel De Ocampo ran the show, Reyes is knee-deep in options. Gary David, Jared Dillinger, and Ryan Reyes barely saw action during those times because Reyes had a set of options in mind. Gabe Norwood is the designated defensive specialist with Castro and Alapag manning the backcourt. RDO and Pingris combo the team's Puso maxim and Jeff Chan and Larry Fonacier provide the scoring support. Japeth Aguilar is the key big alongside either Marcus Douthit or Andray Blatche while Reyes would have one or two gung-ho guys that would yield either positive or negative points to the team like Terrence Romeo, Paul Lee, David, and Calvin Abueva.
I did not see any of these archetypes in the Indonesia game.
Basically, this is what I think. There is no need to push the panic button... but the SBP officials need to slap the heads of all the leagues that they have at their disposal. Fajardo is yes, available for Gilas duty, at this time but where are the other top stars? Of the twelve players used, only five players averaged in double digits with more than 20 games in the previous PBA season.
They also need to suit the available roster for the coach's taste. As mentioned, Baldwin relies on college stars and former proteges and can play in a system wherein they can fly from anywhere in the world as if they didn't miss a beat. Reyes relies on team play and also looks at the PBA as the best place to get the best players.
In some ways, this idea is already dated - because of Philippine basketball's global aspect. Because we need the players to enter college and complete their education, they apply for the PBA within the 22 to 26-year range. Kai Sotto is a marked man as a potential NBA star because he got the recognition when he was just only 16 years old. Luka Doncic and Ricky Rubio played in the Euroleague when they were still in their teens and this was how their game matured and the reason why they got discovered.
But if they are going to go with the PBA setup, the players need to be available for a potential call-up. One player that could have helped is Greg Slaughter. Again, the Philippines lacked stars in their core and Slaughter could have given the team the twin tower edge. Also, if we are looking for the Pinoy imports, Dwight Ramos could have been helpful... or someone like him like Marcio Lassiter. Furthermore, they could have gone to other players for support - like Norwood and Kelly Williams - two oldies but goodies in the international game as well as the Magnolia, Ginebra, and other San Miguel players.
What the hell happened to Justin Brownlee's naturalization papers?
If they are going to field a team this shallow, then they could have just given Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser a chance to go for two golds.
More than this though, we forgot that other Southeast Asian countries also have players that lived in the United States, played like imports in other places, and fine-tuned their skills with a foreign coach. Indonesia, Thailand, and rising Vietnam have consistently competed in the ABL, and with these games came lessons about the Filipino style of play. I can't help but think about what cheat codes Jason Brickman, Al Vergara, Patrick Cabahug, Froi Baguion, and other well-known Pinoy SEA imports parted to these countries.
Indonesia played Gilas without any semblance of fear. When the second half happened and they were riding on a lead, they probably figured that aside from Fajardo, Wright, and the Ravena brothers, there were no other threats. I bet they already had a game plan for these players and because of our lack of depth, it was easy for them to predict our plays.
Reclaiming the title is easy. I honestly think this is a fluke. However, they also need to check out the SEA landscape. We should take the ABL seriously now and think twice about fielding a makeshift team.