Things We Learned in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup - Part 1

Despite Gilas's historic third-place finish, there is still a
lot of room for improvement.

By all intents and purposes, our third place finish in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, China was historic. It was the first time a Philippine team finished on the podium in the biennial event, after all. We finished with a 5-1 record, losing only to eventual champions Iran in the semifinals. We swept the group stage, beating Taiwan, Singapore, and Jordan, defeated India in the quarterfinals, and then pulled the rug from under the Chinese in the dying seconds of the battle for third.

It was definitely a memorable ride for Gilas, and a fitting send-off (yes, I am NOT counting the Last Home Stand farce as a send-off) as the team embarks on a momentous trek to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.

That’s not to say everything was fine and dandy, of course. In each of our wins, even against historical minnows like Singapore and India, we had to grind it out. We generally leaned on fourth quarter runs to get each of our victories, and the team was definitely far from the form it flashed in the 2013 FIBA Asia tournament. This isn’t entirely unexpected, since the team missed a handful of key players and some guys were fresh from the 2014 Governors’ Cup Finals. Conditions were definitely far from ideal, but that didn’t make it easier to watch Gilas commit turnovers and brick its shots on more than several occasions.

Upon reflecting on Gilas’s campaign, I came up with the following points — things we learned from the tournament and can, hopefully, address or keep in mind moving forward. All these, of course, are for the continued improvement of Philippine hoops.

(This is the first of two parts)

Paul Lee is perfect for Gilas
Or, at least, he’s perfect for the system of the current iteration of Gilas. If he were playing for Rajko Toroman in 2011, maybe he wouldn’t be as effective as he was for coach Chot Reyes in the FIBA Asia Cup. Who knows? The reality is without Lee, it would be hard to imagine Gilas among the top three in Wuhan. He led the team in scoring in the Pinoys’ first four games. He hit the third-place-clinching free throws against China. He was the guy most willing to take matters in his own hands when push came to shove.

Where would Gilas have been without Paul Lee?

The former Red Warrior and current Elasto-Painter averaged about 12 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in China while also leading all players with a 50% success rate from beyond the arc. He broke down defenders countless times with his sublime ball handling while also dropping long toms with no conscience whatsoever. For a team like Gilas, which has very minimal ceiling and relies heavily on speed and shooting, and a system like the dribble-drive, Lee is a prime fit.

Clearly, this is a guy we will need in Spain and beyond.

Our PBA MVP is still a FIBA Asia scrub (for now)
In the PBA, June Mar Fajardo averaged around 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks while shooting 55% from the field this past season. Those stats were enough to earn for him Best Player of the Conference honors in the Philippine Cup and, eventually, his first ever Most Valuable Player award. At just 24 years of age (he turns 25 this November) and only in his sophomore campaign in the PBA, his achievements are nothing short of amazing.

So what the hell happened to our MVP, the Kraken, when he put his Pilipinas kit on and took to the hardwood against some of Asia’s most promising big men? 

He was a flop. A scrub. An underwhelming shell of the man-child who wreaked havoc in the local pro circuit.

Fajardo’s averages in the FIBA Asia Cup? About 2 points and 2 rebounds while shooting 27% from the floor in around 11 minutes per outing. His best game was dropping 5 points and 6 rebounds against Singapore. It’s worth nothing that he was the only Gilas player who didn’t play against China. 

Nobody would've guessed June Mar was MVP-material based on his showing
in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup.

In contrast, other young big guys who are NOT MVPs of their own leagues tallied the following stats against Gilas (these are mostly SUBSTITUTE centers who generally matched up with June Mar):
- Lee Te-Wei (6’7 23-year old from Taiwan): 3 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 block.
- Delvin Goh (6’7 19-year-old from Singapore): 9 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
- Mohammad Shaher Hussein (6’11 24-year-old from Jordan): 7 points and 9 rebounds.
- Ahmad Al-Dwairi (6’11 21-year-old from Jordan): 13 points, 14 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 blocks.
- Amritpal Singh (6’11 23-year-old from India): 20 points and 10 rebounds.
- Arman Zangeneh (6’8 21-year-old from Iran): 5 points and 3 rebounds.

These are guys whom Fajardo (and probably Greg Slaughter) will have to face on a constant basis in the next few years. Suffice to say that, based solely on these results, the Kraken (and eventually Gregzilla) will have it tough. I guess it’s a good thing, then, that Andray Blatche still has a lot left in the tank to shore up our center spot.

It was painful watching Fajardo struggle in the 2013 FIBA Asia tourney, often coming in only as a third-string center when the game was beyond doubt. It was even more painful this time around, however, because it’s no longer his initial foray into FIBA Asia hoops, and his being PBA MVP should have boosted his confidence that much more.

But no. Right now, it’s crystal clear that Fajardo still has a long (LONG) way to go to be counted in the conversation of Asia’s best slotmen.

Part Two will be published soon.

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9 Comment

naku Junemar im a big fan =( kaya pinapanalangin ko lagi na gumanda laro mo


The problem is I don't see any effort being made by SMB (or by Fajardo himself) to improve his game after Danny I left the team. If San Miguel management really cared, they'd spring for a personal trainer or a stint in a big man's camp abroad for Junemar. And if Junemar really cared about improving his game instead of just relying on his height, he'd seek out training and conditioning by himself, similar to what Marcus Douthit and Asi Taulava are doing at the House of Pain.


Good points about June Mar needing a really intensive program to improve his skills and his conditioning in preparation for future battles.


syempre sa pinas kung ganun ka kalaki bibihira makatapat ng sing tangkad o mas matangkad pa sayo... kulang pa ang footwork at agility ni junmar, malamang kahit c greg nakasama ganun din mangyayari... buti nalang c greg pwedeng stretch 5 kasi may shooting. another thing eh parang di bagay ang laro ni junmar sa systema ni chot drive and kick kasi kaya madalas tunganga ang bigman guard oriented kasi yung systema tapos medyo passive pa sya


Hindi naman kailangan sa offense siya magcontribute, sa defense wala rin siya laging foul trouble ...


Fajardo must know his role as a member of the Gilas team. His role in SMB is to far from Gilas. His not the no. center, he is not the first option, and not the franchise player of Gilas. Coach Chot must explain clearly to Fajardo what really his role para hindi naman mang gigil at mawala ang porma niya. dapat hindi tayo mag expect ng numbers like what he can do in the PBA. HE can use his big body to screen for his teammates and get more rebounds...


Wala yan! Tangina mo Junemar mula college sinusuportahan kita, ikaw yung idol ko! Halos maiyak ako nung binigay na sa iyo yung mvp trophy. Tapos anong ginagawa mo sa gilas? Tangina ka kahihiyan ka sa pinoy pinagtatawanan na tuloy kami na umiidolo sa iyo lalo na ako na ginagago ng barkada araw-araw dahil tinitingala ko ikaw, na isang UNGAS.


Compare mo c Greg kay junmar. C Greg international material can stretch the floor kase my shooting center Greg sa 15 ft. Tsaka my go to go move c Greg d katulad ni junmar