Gilas Pilipinas against the world. It doesn’t need a hyperbole or further exaggeration to describe how tough the FIBA Olympic qualifier will be for the Philippines’ men’s basketball team.
Bracketed in perhaps the toughest of the three qualifying groups, Philippine basketball will be needing all kinds of help to pull off a miracle on their home soil.
Securing the services of June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter, arguably the two best big men in PBA, would be a nice step toward contention. Yet, there are areas head coach Tab Baldwin must cover for them to have any fighting chance against hoops powerhouses France, New Zealand or even the highly-touted Canadian basketball team.
We learned the past two years that playing with an NBA-caliber talent like Blatche will definitely get you somewhere (first win in FIBA World Cup, silver medal at FIBA Asia 2015). What more if we have two of them and in tip-top physical condition?
Blatche, who has been Gilas’ main big man the past two international tournaments, will be summoned once more for the qualifier.
But unlike his overweight state weeks before FIBA Asia, Baldwin and his team are expecting a slimmer Blatche this time around as they hope he can emulate his performance at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, where he emerged as one of the best scorers and rebounders in the tournament.
Although Blatche was still fantastic throughout Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign at FIBA Asia 2015, you cannot dismiss the fact that he could have played better if he did not show up overweight on Day 1 of practices.
Blatche is a rare kind of talent with the ability to man the interior and knock down treys with ease. At the Olympic qualifier, Blatche will still be the most important player on the team, so making sure he’s lean and mean should be an utmost priority.
On the other hand, Clarkson’s availability for the tournament is another agendum the RP team should take care of as soon as possible. While we have a full stash of talents in the backcourt, Clarkson will be a big difference not only because the 6-foot-5 Los Angeles Lakers guard is a legit NBA talent, but he also creates mismatch problems against any opponent at the world stage.
The latest update on Clarkson’s stint with Gilas was they are already working on several papers to clearance from FIBA (Phil Inquirer). Hopefully, no injury or technical impediment will bar this talented guard out of Missouri from joining the Philippine team.
Photo Courtesy: Ernest Hernandez