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.
But that still meant that the Philippines could strut out a Sinag Pilipinas squad right? That would still be enough 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:
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.
Chris Michael Tolomia
Jeth Troy Rosario
Jonas Raphael Tibayan
Ray Mark Belo
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: