SEABA Stankovic 2016 Philippines Preview: Rolling in the Deep

It’s just sort of ridiculous how deep of a talent pool the Philippines has. We’ve always known that they are the powerhouse of this ASEAN Region. We’ve always figured that any squad they send to any tournament would most likely be the best bet to win the championship.

The SEABA Stankovic Cup 2016 might be the biggest test for the Philippines.

Everyone knew that Gilas would not be sending their top pro players to the SEABA Stankovic Cup. Not with the PBA Finals going on and the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers Tournament (OQT) heading up. As fun as it would have been to see LA Tenorio or Sunny Thoss or even Garvo Lanete come back to play in Thailand after winning it all in the 3rd SEABA Stankovic Cup 3 years ago, it seems too much to hope for.

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Credit: Chalinee Thirasupa

But that still meant that the Philippines could strut out a Sinag Pilipinas squad right? That would still be enough right?

RIGHT?

Well…if you remember (and I, as a Thai, remember all too well), the Philippines were thisclose to being dethroned in the SEA Games by Thailand in the Semis (5 point win) and Indonesia (8 point win). They were still able to take home the victory, but that gap in talent seemed lesser and lesser enough to get fans wondering if sending Amateurs to ASEAN regional events enough to keep their claim of best basketball team in Southeast Asia?


Let’s breakdown the team to find out:

HEAD COACH:

Nash Racela

Credit: Josh Albelda
Credit: Josh Albelda

One thing about coaching these Philippines teams is that you have to know how to manage egos with all the talent going around. Good thing that Coach Nash has had experience with that.

Also the Coach of UAAP (a collegiate basketball league) Season 78 champions, the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws, Coach Nash has had his deals with players of immense talent like Terrence Romeo, RR Garcia, and more recently Mac Belo. Coach Nash found a way to get Romeo and Garcia to co-exist, same as what he did with Tolomia-Belo-Pogoy.

I can’t say I’m an expert on the FEU teams because I only watched their games here and there but you can’t help but awe in their dominance in the UAAP last season. They were easily the best offensive team, leading the league in Offensive Rating (94.9) and Efficiency (46.0 eFG%). They were the best rebounding team, leading the league in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (38.0 ORB%) and Defensive Rebounding Percentage (30.6 DRB%). They had talented players for sure, but it was Coach Nash who had a huge part in grooming them up to this point.

Coach Nash has been working with the Cadets (along with staffs Mike Oliver and Josh Reyes) and his familiarity with the players should work for him despite only have somewhere around 15 days of practice.


PLAYERS:

Almond Vosotros
Chris Michael Tolomia
Jeth Troy Rosario
Jiovanni Jalalon
Jonas Raphael Tibayan
Ken Holmqvist
Kevin Ferrer
Raymar Jose
Ray Mark Belo
Roger Pogoy
Russell Escoto
Von Roffe Pessumal

Let’s slowly break this down:

Among the headlines in the Philippines news circle was “No Kiefer. No Tuatua’a. No Van Opstal.” which kind of displays how they felt about the players that were left out. Still, this is the Philippines and missing out on those guys isn’t the end of the world. I think any other nation would be more than pleased to have recent SEA Games gold medalists Vosotros, Rosario, Jalalon, Ferrer, and Belo playing for their team.

One thing that you have heard being pointed out is that this squad lacks size. During the past two ASEAN Regional tournaments, they had naturalized player Marcus Douthit stomping in the paint. I think they were kind of expecting Moala Tautua’a to be their inside banger, but he was still on vacation (as per reports). Arnold Van Opstal seemed to be another big option down low, all of him, but he also declined the invite.

bigs

That leaves Troy Rosario, Russell Escoto, and Raymar Jose as the remaining players who have labels as “inside players”. Even then, they are more of a power forward for that a traditional 5. Talk N’ Text rookie Rosario has transitioned himself to a very effective stretch 4. Over the course of his first two PBA conferences, Troy has attempted (80) and made (31) more three-point shots than his last 3 seasons in college (he went 9-52 at National University). Combine that with his leaping skills, Troy may have become a much more complete player than the guy that averaged 16.0 points and 8.6 rebounds in last year’s SEA Games. Escoto and Jose were the inside Tandem of FEU and both were different types of specimen. Jose was a workhorse on the boards, led the UAAP in rebounding rate (18.8 TRB%) and rebounds per game (8.8) among Filipinos. Escoto would have been a nice long armed addition to the team but there has been word that he is injured and will not be playing.

rooks

Among the other two iffy inside players who I’m not really sure where to place is Ken Holmqvist and Jonas Tibayan. The later is from the Batang Gilas U18 squad where he played primarily inside, but I expect him to play more of the 3 or 4 position. He averaged 10.2 points and 5.8 rebounds in the SEABA U18 Championship and showed nice touch to get inside and score, but this trip with the cadets team should be mainly an eye-opening experience more than anything else. Holmqvist played a grand total of 28.2 minutes in his first UAAP season, so it’s hard to gauge what he will bring. HOWEVER, the Fil-Norwegian was tabbed by Coach Nash himself in an interview late last year that he has the potential to make the Gilas team. Making the cadet squad is a nice start towards that road.

FORWARDS

Then there are the star small forwards of this team. Mac Belo and Kevin Ferrer were the Kings of their schools, FEU and UST, respectively.

Belo UAAP Season 78: 12.7 ppg, 32.6% 3P, 6.3 rpg, 2.3 apg
Ferrer UAAP Season 78: 17.9 ppg, 34.8% 3P, 8.2 rpg, 1.6 apg

Ferrer had a monstrous season and he helped lead his UST Tigers to the Finals. Even though Ferrer missed out on the Annual MVP of the UAAP, he was recognized by Kiefer Ravena, who had won the award, that it should be shared by the both of them.

Belo’s numbers might pale in comparison to Ferrer’s but that’s because he also had a lot of help. Aside from the aforementioned Jose and Escoto, Belo also had the firepower of Mike Tolomia (who we will talk about in a second) and Roger Pogoy. But Belo was no doubt the go-to guy for the Tamaraws. Ask any Filipino fan who follows the UAAP.

Belo is king clutch.

Rogor Pogoy (mentioned earlier) himself is also on this SEABA Stankovic Squad. Pogoy might not have the radiant shine as of Ferrer or Belo, but he himself can be a two way player.

All three forwards are very versatile. Belo and Ferrer and have sharpened their talons enough to be able to step up and be that guy for the team. Teams are going to have a handful trying to contain any one of them.

Let’s say teams do find a way to contain them. Maybe they start packing up the lane and throwing double teams at those guys. Then the shooters get free.

Say hello to Almond Vosotros and Von Pessumal.

SHOOTERS

I don’t think Thai fans will need any introduction of Almond Vosotros:

In the last SEA Games, Vosotros dropped 4 three pointers on Thailand to avoid that upset and shot a blistering 40.6% from downtown throughout the whole tournament. He’s been off for pretty much most of his PBA campaign. Then again, he has only been playing spare minutes and attempted only 12 three point shots total. It was a better while he was in college, where he was a career 29.4% three point shooter.

Vosotros was a gunner from De La Salle and he might be flanked on the wings with a gunner from rival school Ateneo, Von Pessumal. While he was a Blue Eagle, he might have never been the main focus on offense (never surpassed 20% Usage until his senior year) but no one was ever going to surpass the King Eagle, Kiefer Ravena. Pessumal picked his moments carefully and gunned for a career 32.5% from long range, making 69 over his 5 year career.

GUARDS

Moving on to the point guard positions. First off, we take a crack here at Chris Michael Tolomia. Third in the UAAP in Assist Rate (33.6%) and assists per game (4.0), Tolomia did his job well as the lead guard for the FEU Tamaraws. Tolomia wasn’t a pass-only point guard however and was actually the team’s second leading scorer at 12.4 ppg.

Fun Fact: Mike Tolomia’s brother, Chester Tolomia, played for the Chang Thai Slammer’s back in the 2011/2012 ASEAN Basketball League. Chester played with Thailand SEABA Stankovic Players Attaporn Lertmalaiporn, Sukdave Ghogar, and Darongphan Apiromwilaichai. Really a pointless fact but that’s what I’m always here for.

I intentionally saved the last player because he is a personal favorite of mine. You can read as I gush over him, here and here.

Jiovanni Jalalon doesn’t really need to breakout. Some Filipino fans have come to dub him as the next Jimmy Alapag and the next Jayson Castro. Fans have seen, heard of, and read about his unbelievable stats in the NCAA (another collegiate league in the Philippines) for the Arellano Chiefs. Yet, I still feel that he is not talked about as much for whatever reason. Jalalon is a pure point guard who seems to be able to find smallest gaps for passes. Sadly, I cannot find any credible sources for stats in the NCAA or the PBA D-League, so I can’t back up my case with solid evidence other than the bits and pieces that I have seen him live in action.

Long story short, Jiovanni Jalalon is going to be so freaking awesome.


Overall:

The reaction from the Philippines as a whole was pretty clear. They are heavily concerned about this Philippines team. After the scare in last year’s SEA Games, they couldn’t help but feel protective of their dominant reign in the region when they found out the federation sent a team that were less prepared and (in some people’s opinions) less talented.

But I also feel that it’s quite an overreaction. We’re talking about a team of 5 guys who were on the SEA Games squad last year (6, if we’re going to count Escoto who was in the Cadet pool and on the SEABA Championship roster). Those 5 guys experienced what it was like to be on the brink of an upset. They will be even more alert.

Yes, the concern about the lack of size and lack of a big center is legitimate. But was that ever the Philippines edge over the other teams in the region to begin with? The reported 15 days of preparation is also something to worry about, but judging that these players practically play year round, it shouldn’t be much of a matter.

If you put a number on the odds of this Philippines team winning it all compared to last year’s SEA Games, it might be relatively less. But they should still have the best odds in the pool.


BEST CASE SCENARIO:

Mac Belo places the ball on the floor as the clock ticks down to from 10 seconds. His face shows no emotions as always but he was probably smiling a little bit deep down. The Philipines had just routed Thailand by 30 points in the Finals after beating all teams by no less than 20 in the elimination rounds.

As the buzzer sounds, there is no need to celebrate. They have prepared themselves for this. This was not something that was unexpected. A couple of his fives here and there and a hug with Coach Nash, but nothing more.

This is what the Philippines are supposed to do in ASEAN regional competition. Despite what some fans thought, there was no reason to worry whatsoever about the other nations catching up. At least not under this era.

As Mac Belo walks to the locker room, before he fades into the privacy of himself and his team, he flashes a little grin.

Okay, maybe there was something to celebrate about.


WORST CASE SCENARIO:

Mac Belo walks into the game after a timeout. His face is emotionless as always, but he feels the pressure. Everyone feels the pressure. The Philippines have somehow found themselves one point down with only 9 seconds left in the game. Thankfully they have gained possession of a Thai turnover.

Tolomia walks up to Belo. A slight nod is given as if to say “We can’t lose this one”. They had lost the opening game in a stunner to Malaysia and even though they had turned the ship around and won 2 straight games, they need to win this final one against Thailand to at least qualify for the Finals and for the FIBA Asia Challenge.

Belo sets himself in the right corner after he inbounds the ball to Tolomia. Tolomia drive towards his right to the basket. Belo’s defender doesn’t collapse on Tolomia he is forced to take a wild layup as the buzzer sounds.

The trajectory looks pretty good as it floats in the air, but the Philippines knew from the very first clang that the shot would roll out.

As the two teams walked shake hands, Coach Tim Lewis of Thailand leans in towards Belo and Tolomia and whispers “It might have worked if we had never seen you run that play against De La Salle on youtube.”


Check out the other team previews here:

Philippines
Indonesia
Malaysia
Singapore
Thailand

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14 thoughts on “SEABA Stankovic 2016 Philippines Preview: Rolling in the Deep

  1. I randomly came across this article through someone via twitter and I must say that this is pretty insightful stuff. For someone thats not Filipino you’ve actually done some pretty impressive research on the team. The reason I love this article is that its a lot more substantial than the regular stuff we get to read on local basketball sites. Keep up the good work!

    PS. 6 players in this team are past/current players of coach Nash at FEU.

  2. I hope Sinag will lose to Thailand or Singapore. To teach them a lesson that Asian Tournament needs respect. Not merely by sending amateur collegiate basketball players. But atleast the best standout players.

    To let them know not to look down on any Asian tournament. Very disappointing.. Preparation for just two weeks?Composed of non-star basketball players? Because no big money is involved.. The fact that this is for national pride… They underestimate this league i hope that they taste bitter defeat. I hope Philippine basketball domanation in asean will end. Wounding Filipino pride…

    ‪#‎BoycottPBA‬

    1. Gilas is working their ass off for the olympics we cant send our top tier players in seaba, and sending our amateur players will be good experience for them on their way to the pros, weve always been the champions here in seaba and its like what they say if it aint broke dont fix it.

  3. I am quite impressed with your writing here my friend. It’s amazingly an awesome piece of work you got here. I tried searching for your name here to somehow acknowledge you the best way I can by mentioning your name at least but couldn’t find it here. I could just have browse over to the adjoining links or in the home page and look for it. But pardon my presumptuous attitude, more so my laziness, because I am literally at work right now and just making the most of my few minutes break flicking through interesting “stuff” in the net, and then just came across with your brilliant opus here.

    I’d say you’ve got my biggest thumbs up man because of two underlying reasons: your skill in writing is way up there, and your knowledge and appreciation of Philippine basketball is most admirable.

    I will not delve more on the first reason because it is an undeniable fact as what you have displayed here. But the second one bespeaks of something out-of-ordinary to me for a lot of reasons also. I am a proud Pinoy that has basketball written all over me. Just like all other Pinoys, I am such a massively basketball freak, in and out. I am just quite impressed by you, a Thai, knowing a lot about Philippine basketball. I know that any journalist or writer could just research anything on what he or she essentially requires and later came up with a believable story; or be able to comfortably manipulate the minds of the readers about what they will perceive him or her as a sincere reflection of his or her work. But you know what man, I certainly think you are genuine. I truly believe that you have a profound appreciation of Philippine basketball and I thank you for that my friend. It makes me feel so overwhelmingly glad that you know all about our “Mighty Mouse Jimmy”, or our Kiefer, or our FEU Tamaraws, or our Arellano Chief playmaker Jiovanni being the next Jayson Castro and so on and so forth. Again, khorb khun na ka, my friend.

    By the way, I am pretty sure that you are one of the commentators of the current SEABA Stankovic Cup. Why I said so? Because the commentator (which is you… I’m dead sure about this) talks a lot about different Filipino players’ background and he had an immense knowledge about what’s going on in the Philippine basketball (I thought he was a Filipino at first)… and just like him, you do the same. And, the commentator at one time talked about Mike Tolomia’s big bro, Chester, who previously played with Thailand 2 years ago in the ABL. You mentioned about it in your article here too. Well, to confirm that I am right (that you and the great commentator are one), and as a humble request, please greet me during tomorrow’s Finals game between our both teams, Thailand and the Philippines. I will be watching the game and intently listening to you as well in your play-by-play commentaries.

    Thanks a lot again and all the best for you!!!

    – Jun Pretiboi
    Adelaide, South Australia

    1. Thanks! I dropped a shoutout to Australian viewers. Hope you caught that. Thank you for enjoying this as much as I enjoyed writing it! Really appreciate the gesture.

  4. I see that you got the Gilas Gadets, pretty much pegged here. And this is indeed a very well thought-out article. One thing to note though is that the reason why the team is struggling so much on defense now that the tournament is ongoing is precisely because they only had a few weeks of training. That’s more of a concern rather than the team “missing” some talent. On paper, this team is still the team to beat in the 2016 SEABA Stankovic Cup. Individual talent and the instinctive Pinoy brand of basketball adopting a dribble drive offense can take care of the scoring, but lacking practice and tournament time would mean that this team will struggle in executing good team defense.

  5. Sending amateur players with 2 weeks preparation is a great idea. Cadets and staff’s will push their maximum intelligence how to communicate inside while playing with experience and professional players from other countries. Its not about under estimating other teams, I guess PH believe winning a gold with amateur players is a big mission to achieve and the fact that crowd intensity will feel inside the court to cheer their teams. Imagine, if PH will send Pro players (even low profile in PBA) then it would be boring match or we can say overkill.

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