Grading Gilas 2.0

How has Gilas 2.0 done so far?
(image from the Smart Gilas Facebook page)
These past few weeks have been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for us Filipinos who closely followed the second iteration of SMART-Gilas Pilipinas. We all rejoiced when they copped the Jones Cup crown and brought it to Manila for the first time in 14 years. We all felt vindicated when they avenged their only Jones Cup loss by beating the Fadi El-Khatib-led Lebanese in Tokyo. On the other hand, we also felt the disappointment of their late-game collapse against China, and the anguish of their defeats in the semifinals and the battle for third place.

Gilas 2.0 gave us one of the biggest highs ever by bringing home a rare first place trophy, but they also brought us to an all-too-familiar place of bad breaks and wasted opportunities in the games that counted the most.

So where are we now? Has our program made some measure of progress, or are all the successes just smoke and mirrors? What are the things we could be proud of, and what, if anything, can we look forward to?

Here, without prejudice but with full honesty, is my humble and unsolicited perspective on Gilas 2.0. This is not meant to “tell Coach Chot Reyes and his staff what to do,” but, rather, to just air out my own flawed observations. I have no right to question the brain trust of Gilas. I mean, we’re talking about two NT coaches here (Coach Chot coached the NT back in 2007 and Coach Jong Uichico did it in 2002). Still, there might be some things worth picking up from the following:

Kuya (Big Brother) Marcus Douthit – There’s no doubt that Douthit is the best player on the Gilas squad. That’s what he’s supposed to be, that’s why he was naturalized, and he has successfully filled that role for us. He’s the big man, the commanding low post presence, we’ve always wanted. If we had him in the 2002 Asian Games and the 2007 & 2009 editions of the FIBA-Asia Championships, I am sure we would’ve placed AT LEAST second in ALL of those tourneys. Douthit’s numbers this year speak volumes of his effectiveness – over fourteen combined games in the Jones Cup and the FIBA Asia Cup (he sat out the game against Macau), Kuya Marcus normed 15.7ppg, 11.1rpg, 1.5bpg, 1.1spg, and 1.1apg in a little over 30 minutes of action per outing. WOW. That’s a 32-year old workhorse right there. He’s the only player, bar none, who placed in the top 5 most efficient players for both tournaments. Not Samad Nikkhah Bahrami. Not Kosuke Takeuchi. Not Fadi El-Khatib. MARCUS DOUTHIT. Where would we be without him? I don’t even want to know.

Marcus Douthit remains to be the rock on which
the fortunes of the Gilas program are placed.

Coaching Experience – As was already mentioned, both Coach Chot and his assistant, Coach Jong, have extensive international coaching experience. Coach Jong was the heartbreak coach of the 2002 Asian Games where Korea’s Lee Sang-Min shattered our dreams of playing China for the gold. Meanwhile, Coach Chot was the hard-luck coach of the 2007 NT that actually had a winning record (5 wins and 2 losses) en route to just a 9th place finish. How did that happen? We were placed in the “Group of Death” together with China, Jordan, and Iran. We lost to both Iran and Jordan in the group stage before sweeping our last four games to place just outside the top 8. To his credit, Coach Chot is the only Philippine coach in recent history to have beaten China TWICE in one FIBA-Asia tournament. Outside of Rajko Toroman, these two are the best suited to steer our boys back to international glory.

Versatility – Not since Coach Yeng Guiao’s 2009 Powerade Team Pilipinas has our NT had so many players who could play multiple positions. Gabe Norwood, Jared Dillinger, and Matt Ganuelas can all play spots 1 to 4 (with varying levels of success of course), while Ranidel De Ocampo and Jay-R Reyes can play all frontline positions. Joachim Thoss is a natural PF, but he’s the main back-up to Douthit at the slot. Jeff Chan, Larry Fonacier, and Gary David are all natural SGs who can also moonlight as playmakers or swingmen. Coach Chot can go big or go quick with the versatility of his roster.

Inconsistent Sniping– Offsetting all those strengths, however, was our team’s inconsistency, especially in terms of outside shooting. Relying on outside shooters with just one main low post option is a game plan a lot of other national teams utilize, and when our shooters were accurate, then it was a thing of beauty (we did it in the Jones Cup and Japan did it in the FIBA Asia Cup). When our shooters failed to hit, though, it was almost too painful to watch. In the Jones Cup, Jeff Chan, LA Tenorio, Larry Fonacier and Gabe Norwood all hit more than 30% of their three-point attempts. In the FIBA Asia Cup, only Chan and Tenorio were able to connect at that average rate. Chan’s numbers actually sank, from hitting 47% of his treys in Taiwan, to just 31% in Tokyo. The biggest decline, however, was with Norwood’s accuracy – from 57% in Taiwan to just 17% in Tokyo. When it rains, it pours – that goes for both makes and misses.

Jeff Chan's shooting absorbed
 a cold spell in Tokyo.

Size – Despite the presence of Douthit down low and the likes of Norwood, Dillinger, and Ganuelas at the wings, Gilas was still a relatively small team compared to our continental neighbors. Yes, we can argue to the high heavens that our calling cards are shooting, speed, and defense, but when ranged against the top-tier Asian teams, those strengths will hardly cut it at a consistent pace. Against teams that are bigger but slower like Uzbekistan or some of the other Gulf nations (UAE or Saudi Arabia), we might be really successful, but against teams with a good balance of size, shooting, and speed (the WABA and EABA teams, or even Qatar), our size deficiency will eventually take its toll. It’s a sad reality, but it IS a reality that more size won’t hurt.

Asghar Kardoust was unstoppable when faced
against our smaller frontline.

Frontline – Size is different from frontline quality. What I mean with the term “frontline” here is frontline DEPTH, or the lack thereof. Against the weaker teams, Ranidel De Ocampo, Jay-R Reyes, and even Rico Villanueva shone, but, again, versus the really excellent big men of China, Lebanon, Iran, and Qatar, we struggled mightily. The guy who seemed particularly ineffective was, surprisingly, Sonny Thoss, who should’ve been our best big guy outside of Kuya Marcus. Thoss, arguably the best back-to-the-basket local in the PBA, had paltry averages – 2.1ppg and just 3.1rpg in 15 games. For one reason or another, he just couldn’t produce as well as he probably hoped he could. That’s a shame, considering he’s a guy who REALLY wants to play for flag and country. I’m pulling for him to rediscover his form soon. Apart from Thoss’s struggles, though, our frontline also succumbed to foul trouble, especially against the Iranians in the FIBA Asia Cup semifinals. When Douthit sat down, everything unraveled. It was made apparent that we really need a big guy who could come in and produce in case Kuya Marcus has to warm the bench. Right now, we don’t have that guy.

Young talents – The players, though, who might eventually be “that guy” are already here, and Gilas need not look too far. In the college level, Ateneo’s Greg Slaughter appears to be an intriguing prospect to eventually inherit Douthit’s job as the NT’s chief big man. Of course, in terms of skill, Slaughter still has a lot to learn, but a few post-graduation months of training as Douthit’s understudy can fast-track his progression. Slaughter has a good combo of size and basketball IQ that many players his size didn’t have before. The absolute worst Slaughter can be is a taller, stronger Andy Seigle, which isn’t really a terrible thing, but, on the flipside, Slaughter’s upside is sky-high. Another kid who can probably fill in as the country’s next best big man is 2012 PBA Draft top pick Junmar Fajardo. Fajardo didn’t really impress me too much in his stint with the San Miguel Beermen in the ABL, but that’s probably because he played limited minutes alongside more experienced and seasoned imports. Still, PBA observers and players have been raving about his development, and they have been united in proclaiming him the future of Philippine Basketball. If even just one of those two guys can come close to the level of Douthit, then Philippine basketball will be a lot stronger. I just hope that happens sooner rather than later.

Greg Slaughter is one bright prospect for
the Gilas program.
(image by Alyson Yap/

PBA support – I believe it’s great that the PBA has thrown its full support, at least in general terms, behind the Gilas program. It was awesome having PBA Commish Chito Salud express how the PBA will rally to help the Gilas squad find even more success. At least in theory, a national team that doesn’t have the backing of the country’s strongest basketball league is bound for mediocrity. Ironically, though, the Philippines has never tasted gold in the top-level competitions (Asian Games & FIBA-Asia Men’s) ever since the PBA agreed to lend its players. I hope that the PBA can do more than just fix its schedule to accommodate the practices and the pocket-tournaments of the NT. I hope it can fix its schedule around the whole FIBA-Asia calendar (if it hasn’t already). Also, and this is the really BIG HOPE, I hope the PBA can push (read: force) ALL its teams to really lend their players to the national cause. It’s no secret that some teams (in particular, Alaska and Rain or Shine) have appeared more open than others (read: SMC clubs) in terms of lending their players. It’s an old rant, but the quarrels of corporations should not weigh more heavily than the cause of a nation.

Other Candidates for Naturalization – Despite Douthit’s great performance, it’s no secret that he’s a little past his physical prime. At 32, Douthit can still run and shove with the best of Asia, but his “check engine” signal will light up pretty soon. I have no doubt he’ll compete for the Philippines till the last bone on his body breaks, but the crystal clear and practical issue is we need someone who’ll be our new naturalized reinforcement. As few as maybe 3 or 4 years ago, this might have sounded like blasphemy, but the reality is we can no longer compete at a consistently high level without a naturalized player. Sure, we can probably upset a team or two, but to be CONSISTENTLY COMPETITIVE means we have to swallow our pride and seek an uberskilled foreigner willing and able to represent our “three stars and the sun.” Some prime candidates like Javale McGee of the Denver Nuggets or former B-Meg import Denzel Bowles have been floated as stark possibilities. Both are relatively young. Both are athletic. Both are versatile and possess essentially the same skill-set (a wider skill-set in McGee’s case) that Douthit does. I’m not entirely convinced, however, that a 7-footer is what we need. Given that we have Slaughter and Fajardo (maybe even a returning Japeth Aguilar?) to potentially man the post, perhaps what we need more is an in-betweener – a naturalized swingman instead of a naturalized center. Look at both Jordan and Qatar. Jordan’s Rasheim Wright is an awesome find who’s been able to complement his team’s talents really well (2nd in the 2011 FIBA-Asia), while Qatar’s Trey Johnson is the kind of playmaker the Gulf squad badly needed (they kicked our butts in the FIBA Asia Cup). Perhaps a guy big enough (maybe between 6’6 to 6’8) to handle some inside chores while, at the same time, agile enough to defend the continent’s most versatile wingmen (El-Khatib, Bahrami, Sun Yue) can be the answer.

How we do things in the Philippines – Nobody can deny the passion with which Pinoys treat basketball. Even if our most bemedaled international gladiators, Manny Pacquiao and Efren Reyes, flex their muscle in the fields of boxing and billiards, it’s clear that basketball is at the very core of Philippine culture. To suggest we just dump it and shift majority of our focus elsewhere is a foolhardy proposition, but, strangely enough, our own passion and pride for hoops has somewhat limited our ability to find success internationally. Why so? Because of the way basketball is done in the Philippines. Basketball is year-round. Basketball never stops. There’s really no such thing as an off-season if one is a die-hard hoops fan. For about 9-10 months, there’s the PBA, and for the other 3 months, the collegiate wars kick in. Sprinkled amongst these are the NBA and a slew of other leagues. There’s no time where the focus is squarely put on the National Team. Another thing is that we play the game so differently. This has been repeated so many times, but the way our college guys and pro guys play ball is just so much more fluid and more “open court” than the way it’s done in most other places. The Pinoy game is also know for its raw physicality. We allow hits that would be counted as unsportsmanlike fouls elsewhere. When our players go and don the national colors, it’s almost as if they’re too fast or too physical for their own good. Travelling calls are made for the jab-steps and euro-steps we see so often in the Araneta Coliseum. Pinoys are tagged for unsportsmanlike fouls that are considered love taps in the PBA. A technical foul was even called on Coach Chot for scolding his own player in one of the FIBA Asia Cup matches! There’s just a big disconnect between how international officials understand the game and how we do. As long as the gap is there, success will be hard to come by.

Overly stringent eligibility rules – When FIBA-Asia cracked down on player eligibility in 2011, a lot of people felt irritated not really because FIBA-Asia violated a rule (they were actually IMPLEMENTING it for the first time!), but more because they overstepped protocol and precedence. It’s great that FIBA-Asia finally strictly implemented the rules on eligibility, BUT it would have been better if they had duly informed the member nations WAY AHEAD of time, knowing FULL WELL that the organization had a history of skirting the eligibility issue in previous editions of the competition. Teams would have been better prepared to present pertinent documents rather than spend their time scrambling to produce the needed paperwork. A lot of time was wasted. A lot of people got irked. A lot of doubt was cast. It just was not the most flawless display of implementation and administration. What this means is that teams like the Philippines will have to scramble in case a Filipino of mixed descent wants to play for the NT. A Fil-American, for example, would have to officially declare that he chooses his Filipino citizenship over his American citizenship by the time he turns 16. Wow. That’s just too much pressure for a young kid. What about guys like Fil-Canadian Matthew Wright, who played for the RP-Youth team a few years ago? Wright plays for St. Bonaventure in the US NCAA’s Division 1. Despite playing for the RP-Youth Team at 18, will he now be disallowed from joining the senior NT? This severely limits the recruitment/scouting potential of countries like the Philippines where the talent base isn’t as big as that of Iran or China. Why can’t FIBA just adopt the same eligibility rules that FIFA has?

I remember 2007. When Coach Chot helmed SMC Team Pilipinas that year, his mantra was, “Good is the enemy of Great.”

Coach Chot has to be applauded for putting forth
his best effort, but I'm sure even better things are to come.
(image by Paolo Papa/InterAKTV)

Strangely enough, with all the things mentioned here, it seems Gilas 2.0 can be described as good, but definitely not yet great, or, at least, not yet as great as it can be. As of this writing, Coach Chot has made it public that a couple of things have to happen for the Gilas program to really fulfill its mandate and reach its potential. These are: 1) suitable frontliners have to be added to the make-up of the team (he mentioned guys like Slaughter, Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Kelly Williams, and Marc Pingris), and 2) sweeping changes have to be made in the PBA (adopting FIBA rules or the way FIBA rules are interpreted, and changing the rims to FIBA specifications).

If these things happen, then perhaps the future will look brighter than ever. If not, then maybe we’ll just remain on this plateau of “good” – a plateau where finishing in the top 8 or 4 is a given, but getting the gold is ever so slightly out of reach.

Unless otherwise specified, all images are by Milad Payami/
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15 Comment

nice piece! at least i'm reading an article with sense....kudos!


i think chot reyes should tone down his rhetoric, expletive, bashing, hollering etc.,,these guys are not high school/college students anymore,,,he should be aware that he's asking them a favor to play for flag and country.....when he shouted at Norwood begging him to sink those freethrows in, is very embarrassing,,,,,a mum or a dad watching and hearing those kinds of words from a coach yelling at your son, is like it just doesn't sit well inside your stomach....hope Chot will realize his shortcomings too....and hope he will select his final 12 line up sooner and not to wait for the next year.


first Anonymous: Thanks! Let's continue supporting the Gilas program!


second Anonymous: First off, I'm sure Coach Chot is aware of his own players' threshold for forceful reminders. I mean, they're playing at a really competitive level. It should not be a big surprise that their emotions might get the better of them.

Next, I find your idea about these guys playing for flag and country as a "favor." It implies that the program and the country owe the players. I think the inverse is true. Playing for flag and country is not a favor. It's a matter of duty and should be considered an honor.

Lastly, Coach Chot seems to be very transparent with acknowledging his own mistakes. I'm sure that, upon reflection, there might be some things he would've done a little differently. I am also certain he's cooking up his ideal roster, but there are just too many outside factors to consider.

Let's continue supporting Gilas! Mabuhay!


sirs nkapaglaro na ang ibang not eligible players sa qatar and rumors that they will field taruy ngombo sa fiba asia next tournament. does it mean that we can also field stanley pringles to play for us. he would be a great addition for us in the pg spot.


Hi! I'm a die hard basketball fan, btw, I'm chinese in descent, but I was born and live here in the Philippines, and it is crazy how I support Philippine basketball team, and not China team. I have really embraced the culture of Filipino basketball spirit. Probably the first national team I watched was the 2007 edition and up to now, we haven't really dominated the international scene. And I am also patiently waiting that someday we will be back at the World Stage in basketball.

your article was nice!! I, too, have the same feeling about the progress that the National Team needs to improve.

One thing I really supported is to change the court specification to the ones in FIBA. Especially the rim, 3pts line, and also the travelling issue.



Players who coach chot should invite/include in the national pool..

PGs: Tenorio, Castro, R. Reyes, Cabagnot
SGs: Yap, Caguioa, Lee, David, Chan
SFs: Norwood, Dillinger, Santos,
PFs: Williams, DeOcampo, Pingris, Washington
Cs: Douthit, Fajardo, Aguilar, Slaughter

What we really need:

-A solid backup for Marcus. Fajardo and Aguilar should be able to give quality minutes whenever Marcus heads to the bench.

- Someone who can create his own shot and break down the defense. Basically take over the offense when our shooting isn't clicking. Hence, Caguioa, J Yap or even Paul Lee's inclusion. We tend to shoot too many jumpers. We need a go to guy like any of these 3.

- Rebounding outside of Marcus. Williams and Pingris. Need i say more? They will provide the intangibles as well.

- Am i the only one who thinks Jay Washington would be perfect for the internatiol style of play? Plug him at the 4 or even in the 3 and you will create mismatches. His length and deadly would come in handy for gilas 2.0!


Tenorio, Castro, Dillinger
Yap, Caguioa
Norwood, Washington, Santos
DeOcampo, Pingris, Williams
Douthit, Fajardo, Aguilar


Slaughter is on his list for sure. But ateneo is eying a 5peat. Ateneo first befor the country,


ano gusto mo coach pipi, manuod ka pba may bad words pa kasama yung sigaw ng coach ni norwood sa kanya .... trabaho ng coach pagalitan mga players nya pag my mali


we need shooters. plain and simple. kung anu-ano tinuturo sa mga bata. baket di turuan ng fundamentals na maayos. panay dribble drive. ppfft.


no way na sa 4 washington will create mismatches the best scenario eh ka height nya yung ka match-up nya kung di sya ang maliit we need a 4 that can rebound and have defensive toughness inside the paint tulong kay marcus obviously wala nun si jwash pwede sya 3 but the problem is for jwash tobe effective is he has to hold the ball often


last year na ngayon ni slaughter sa uaap nxt year sasali na sa draft yan kaya after ng uaap bakante na sya pwede sya sumali sa gilas


Meant put him at the 3 spot to create mismatches. Washington has a lethal jumper and could also help inside the paint.

It's like having a deadlier shooter and a more agile version of ranidel at small forward.


yes, i also read about ngombo being reinstated. if true, then that's bad news. he'll form a really lethal combo with trey johnson at the wings. it might also set a precedent for other countries to follow. if he does get reinstated, then maybe we could appeal the situation of our other fil-ams like sol mercado or stanley pringle, too.