Ray Parks helped lead Team Sinag-Pilipinas
to the gold medal in the 26th SEA Games.

*all images are by Rogelio Amat

It wasn't really a big surprise that Team Sinag-Pilipinas swept the opposition on the way to claiming the basketball gold medal at the 26th Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia last week. Despite not having all the available aces of Philippine amateur basketball in tow, coach Norman Black still steered the Filipino five to a resounding romp of the competition. (coach Black would've preferred some other players like Calvin Abueva and Ronald Pascual available)

As a team, Sinag blasted its opponents out of the water. The Pinoys won all 5 of their games, and how! Sinag beat its foes by an average of a little over 40 points per game. With the exception of their last elimination round game, which was against the Thais, the Pinoys outrebounded their older, and at times taller, opponents by a considerable margin. Sinag also outshot the opposing squad in every single game, and they won almost all quarters.


Malaysia outscored Sinag in the 2nd period of their semifinal game, 22-21, while Thailand kept in step with them, 17-all, in the 3rd frame of the championship match. 

What does this tell us? Is it even significant?

Chris Tiu provided the necessary toughness
and leadership for the Filipinos.
It tells us that, though overwhelmingly ahead in terms of sheer talent and athleticism, the Pinoys weren't always fantastic. There were times, in fact, when they seemed tentative or tried to do too much. A quick look at their age, however, could reveal a satisfactory explanation for this. With the exception of skipper Chris Tiu, nobody on the Sinag roster is a day over 24. This is an extremely young team, which means they're hungry to prove themselves, and that they have a tendency to make several unforced errors despite the aforementioned gap in skill compared with their ASEAN neighbors.

Is this significant? Absolutely. There have been several articles expressing how the second major iteration of the Smart-Gilas senior men's national team will be formed primarily by players from Sinag-Pilipinas. This is intriguing. Judging from the squad's performance in Jakarta, my bet is that only three guys on the present Sinag lineup have a great shot at making Gilas 2.0. 

Kiefer Ravena had a bevy of highlight reel-worthy
plays in Jakarta.
These are Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks and Greg Slaughter. The first two guys will make it because, given the fact they're just 18 years old, they possess the basketball IQ that many other older players still don't have. And coupled with their innate talent? Wow. 

Slaughter, on the other hand, has the best chance of making Gilas 2.0 because of two things. The first, and most apparent, reason is his height. At just a shade under 7'0", he was the tallest player in the SEA Games, and he has shown that he is way better than another Pinoy 7-footer we all know and love (to criticize) -- EJ Feihl. 

Greg Slaughter will probably helm the Philippine frontline
for the next decade or so.
Slaughter has shown an affinity for running the floor, passing out of the post and occasionally nailing the mid-rang J ala Rabeh Al-Hussaini. We have his college coaches (from Ateneo and UV) to thank for that enviable skill-set. Of course, it would be even more awesome if he could really show a consistent low-post and back-to-the-basket game (some Marcus Douthit tutorials perhaps?). Needless to say, Slaughter will be one of the NT's premier big men for years to come.

As for the other guys on the team, the jury's out. Chris Tiu might make Gilas 2.0, but it'll be because of his experience and IQ more than anything else. It seems he has regressed as a shooter, and his height is a weakness at the 2 or 3 position. But given his leadership, he'll still probably make it.

The other guys might not be as fortunate. Nico Salva, Jake Pascual and Dave Marcelo are all at least 3 inches away from the size we need in the frontcourt, while big wingmen Cliff Hodge and Chris Ellis have shown little beyond their hops and hustle to really seize our imagination. If either or both of them had the skills of the early-2000s Danny Seigle, then they'd be shoo-ins. Sadly, that's just not the case.

Chris Ellis and Cliff Hodge showed impressive
hops and hustle, but not much else.
As for the guards, the only way Emman Monfort, RR Garcia and Garvo Lanete will get nods for Gilas 2.0 is if they resemble Jimmy Alapag's game. At this point, though, it doesn't look like any of them can approximate the Mighty Mouse's MVP-worthy stature. 

Despite all those things, however, Sinag still lived up to its name and gave Filipino hoops fans a ray of hope for the future. Like what coach Norman Black said after nailing the gold, Sinag is a very young team. The upside is just mind-boggling for these guys. Who knows? Maybe a couple of tweaks here and there -- Marcus Douthit's return (or Javale McGee's naturalization?), Japeth Aguilar finally meeting his potential, the emergence of Cebuano center Junmar Fajardo, Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot being allowed to don the national colors by the SMB Corporation -- might just make the future Gilas five strong enough to finally upend China and Korea in the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships.

Will coach Norman Black retake the Philippine NT's
helm on the way to a possible FIBA World Championships slot?
And then a ticket to the 2014 World Championships.

Free to dream, eh?

All thanks to Sinag-Pilipinas.

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