2016 GILAS VS IRAN: RELOAD VS REBUILD

Jayson Casrtro got the better of Sajjad Mashayekhi in their match-up last year in Changsha-Hunan.
Gilas just trounced (kinda) Iran in their first tune-up game this week, and it was a treat to know that our Gilas boys were able to hang (and then some) against a squad that has been prepping for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments since their season ended mid-April. 

Iran was supposed to be a sharper, more seasoned squad heading in, especially after sweeping the 2016 West Asia Basketball Association qualifiers for the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge, but they sorely missed the services of veteran players Hamed Haddadi, Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, Mahdi Kamrani, and Hamed Afagh, among others, in their first tune-up against Gilas. 

Both teams play again tonight at the Araneta Coliseum, but this time around it’ll be in full view of rabid Philippine basketball fans.

A good theme for this encounter is “Reload x Rebuild.” Gilas reloads after a good showing in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, and this time some guys they didn’t have last year are back in the fold. As for Iran, it has been much publicized that they have eschewed some of their veterans in favor of a youth movement, and we’ll see how effective that will be against the Gilas boys. 


1. GILAS: ANDRAY BLATCHE
- Having Blatche is a sure luxury for Gilas. He can hurt opponents from any point on the floor, and he adds much-needed size to the team. Without Hamed Haddadi, Iran will probably have a tough time matching up with Dray.

2015-2016 CBA Stats: 23.3ppg, 10.4rpg, 4.0apg, 2.2spg, 1.0bpg, 1.6 triples per game.


Will Andray Blatche prove to be the big difference?

2. GILAS: JAYSON CASTRO and JUNE MAR FAJARDO
- When one speaks of the best players in the PBA, both Castro and JMF cannot be left out of the conversation, and it’s a very good thing that BOTH are in Gilas again. Castro is probably going to be better than any other PG Iran can throw on the floor, while JMF has grown his game so much that he could probably be a good match for the likes of Arsalan Kazemi, Asghar Kardoust, and Mohammad Hassanzadeh.

PBA season stats:
Castro - 18.6ppg, 4.2rpg, 5.2apg, 1.0spg, 41.1 FG%
JMF - 20.1ppg, 11.9rpg, 1.4bpg, 1.2apg, 57.0 FG%


Can JMF unleash his Kraken self on Team Melli?

3. GILAS YOUNG GUNS: PARKS, RAVENA, ROSARIO
- Perhaps Gilas can expect a lot of firepower form their young guns as well. BRP and Troy Rosario can probably contribute almost immediately, while Kiefer will treat this whole thing as a learning experience. Regardless, though, they add much-needed youth into this squad, and it’ll be interesting to see what their impact is going to be.

Kiefer Ravena could be seeing action for the Gilas seniors team for the first time ever.

4. IRAN: OSHIN SAHAKIAN
- With so many veterans out, it seems Sahakian is going to be the default leader of Iran on the floor. He’s not the biggest guy on the team, but his heart and effort are reminiscent of Marc Pingris’s. He’ll match-up a lot with Japeth and Dray, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can be successful in limiting those Gilas weapons.

2015-2016 IBF Superleague stats: 11.2ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.4apg, 1.3spg, 43.3 FG%

Oshin Sahakian will take on more of a leadership role for Iran this year.

5. IRAN: ARSALAN KAZEMI
- Kazemi has been missing-in-action for the Iran team for a long time. He last played for them in the FIBA Asia Championship in 2011, and he should be among the team’s biggest weapons this year. Coach Dirk Bauermann will use him a lot especially without Haddadi around, and the NBA Draft pick is expected to be a high-productivity performer.

2014-2015 CBA Stats: 15.0ppg, 13.7rpg, 3.4apg, 3.1spg, 66.1 FG%


Arsalan Kazemi will certainly play a major role as he returns to the men's team after missing out in 2015.

6. IRAN YOUNG GUNS: YAKHCHALI, MASHAYEKKHI, JAMSHIDI
- Like us, Iran also has a lot of youngblood infused in its team. The key ones to look out for are Behnam Yakhchali, Sajjad Mashayekhi, and Mohammad Jamshidi. Jamshidi is around the same age as Kiefer and BRP, but Yakhchali and Mashayekh are even younger (born 1995) and already they are counted among this team’s main cogs. It’ll be very interesting to see how these young ‘uns try to make up for the absence of Iran’s talismanic veterans, but, if coach Dirk Bauermann is to be believed, then these promising young talents could be just as good.

Sajjad Mashayekhi is the heir apparent to Mahdi Kamrani for Iran.

All images from FIBA.


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