All Roads Lead to Manila – Gilas Pilipinas Practice Day 5: All the Space In Between

Several things stood out during the fifth practice session of Gilas Pilipinas at the Philsports Arena/Ultra this past Monday evening.

First, there was a TV crew (I think they were from TV5, since one guy was wearing a TV 5 shirt) on-hand to film parts of the practice session. They were, naturally, recording from different angles – probably going to use the footage for a feature piece when the 2013 FIBA Asia tourney is just around the corner. This wasn’t really a new thing as several other outfits have recorded the practices over the past few weeks. What intrigued me with this one, however, was this: after the practice, the players were filmed doing profile poses.

Profile poses? Yes. You know what these are. Picture your favorite basketball player dribbling the basketball between his legs, spinning it on his index finger, or juking left and right. Picture him looking straight at the camera as if doing all these moves for an audition tape. That’s basically it. It’s the kind of thing you see when players or team rosters are introduced.

The second thing that stood out was this: there were about 10 or so kids in the stands, watching with wide eyes as the Gilas boys ran their dribble-drive drills. I imagine these kids probably felt really special just to be able to see their idols in the flesh. One of the kids had an Ateneo de Zamboanga shirt, which might indicate that they were visiting Manila, and that they simply dropped by the practice to catch a glimpse of the team that will fight for national pride and honor come August.

The Gilas boys pose with some real fans.
(image by Enzo Flojo/Hoop Nut)

After practice, the kids mobbed the players and the coaches. They went on the hardwood, got some basketballs, and shot around with the players. This was significant for me because even though it might seem like a simple, regular thing for these famous PBA stars, I’m pretty sure the kids will carry the memory of this moment, this night, with them maybe forever.

When they watch Gilas Pilipinas on TV in August battling the Chinese, the Lebanese, the Qataris, and the Iranians, these kids will remember how Jayson Castro taught them to shoot the three. They will remember Jared Dillinger raising his hands to faux-block their shots. They will remember seeing Japeth Aguilar’s windmill jam from courtside.

After the kids played with their idols, had their pictures taken and their shirts signed, they filed out of the arena with ear-to-ear smiles. They were laughing heartily and were giddily talking about what just happened. It was clear they could hardly believe it.

In one way, these kids represent the true fans of the game and the team. They will still probably remember their Gilas experience no matter the result in August. In the eyes of these real fans, the Gilas boys will always be heroes.

Kids with Japeth Aguilar.
(image by Enzo Flojo/Hoop Nut)

Just the way it should be.

And this is also why the members of the national pool continue to attend these practices and train extra hard despite their heavy skeds, despite their obligations to play for their mother clubs.

Speaking of training extra hard, the last thing that really caught my attention was the post-practice shoot-around involving Larry Fonacier, Ranidel De Ocampo, Gary David, Japeth Aguilar, and Jared Dillinger.

All five guys stayed behind well after the practice was officially over. While other members of the team ate their recovery meals, watched DeAndre Jordan murder Brandon Knight on their smart phones, or left to go home, these five guys remained on the court, launching and drilling shots from beyond the three-point line. There was no explicit instruction from coach Chot for them to do this. They just did.

They kept shooting the basketball from long range. Naturally, Larry and Gary both seemed like they were the most on-target. Ranidel and Jared seemed to be hitting their fair share, too. It was Japeth who seemed to struggle with his three-point shot. Still, he kept on chucking it just like the rest.

After about 15 minutes of continuous shooting, Larry, Gary, and Ranidel went to the bench, took off their shoes, and decided to call it a night. They got their chicken noodle soup and got ready to depart.

Jared and Japeth, however, remained on the court, still shooting.

This was a great sight for me.

These are two guys who can make the final cut mainly because of their size and athleticism. Jared is a pretty tall guy for the positions he can play – PG, SG, and SF. There are hardly any locals at those positions in the PBA who can match-up with him in terms of skill set. Off the top of my head, perhaps only Gabe Norwood possesses a relatively similar set of attributes.

This same thing is also true for Japeth. At about 6’9-6’10, he’s tall enough to play the 5 spot, but his speed, handles, explosiveness, and shooting also enable him to play the 4 and 3. If he can only be more consistent with his jumpers, then he might just be Manila’s version of Kevin Durant. Yes, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s not thoroughly inconceivable, right?

Having said that, both of these guys know that for them to be effective in the FIBA Asia game, for them to be more beneficial to Gilas, they will really need polished three-point sniping.

After about 10 more minutes, both guys are still at it. By far, Japeth is making less threes than Jared, but one has got to admire the big man’s desire to improve. He knows that big things are expected of him, and, to be quite honest, he has shown a sincere determination in these Gilas practices. He wants to prove something. He wants to improve. He wants to be better.

A few more minutes later, coach Chot gets up from his chair and waves good bye to the remaining members of the team and the staff. The last person he talks to is Japeth.

I don’t really know what they talked about, but I found that to be an interesting moment nonetheless. Just a couple of months ago, it seemed like coach Chot was one of Japeth’s bitterest critics, but now here they are, working for a common goal again. They give each other a low five, and coach Chot walks out of the arena afterwards.

Meanwhile, Japeth and Jared continue to shoot.

No more TV crew. No more fans. Just the ball, the basket, themselves, and all the space in between.

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3 Comment

Thank your sir! Looking forward every week for your next article as observer in Gilas practice. It's very wonderful to hear some players like David, Dillinger, and Aguilar actually exerting the extra muscle to improve their strengths for FIBA. Hoping to see these very guys on the final lineup.


Japeth indeed has improved a lot with shooting. hope he keeps it consistent come FIBA ASIA


I hope Japeth will figure it out that he is bound to play the 4 and 5 spot, his scoring will definitely come from the 15-16 ft around the basket if not inside the box. He needs to divert his focus mastering that range and i hope not getting hooked on beyond the arc spots. He is better inside for he can surely maximize his size in getting offensive rebounds and put backs, which he rarely does if he is positioned beyond the arc.

On defense - Smart Defense, I hope now he will continue have the courage to work on this , he is getting stronger Now, and i think, it may be work in progress for him to improve that.
Second is, his rebounding... Rebounds with dominance.