Smart Gilas – Moving Forward
The Score by Patricia Bermudez-Hizon
Special to Yahoo! Southeast Asia
The Champions Cup in Doha did not bear the results they set to achieve. “We were way better than the outcome. They gave us a hard time,” shared Coach Rajko Toroman. He explains that they were up against some of the best players of Lebanon, then Iran had two NBA players, and they were not in shape.
Having an injured JV Casio, Marcio Lassiter and JR Cawaling made it even more difficult. Then Chris Lutz was just thrown into the team days before the trip. The team had no other choice but to use Mark Barrocca who was not a natural point guard.
“We did not play bad, but we just didn’t play at the level that we did when we were in Dubai last time for the invitational tournament,” shared Toroman. “We didn’t have the same energy and enthusiasm. We also played against our strongest competition ever; stronger than in Jakarta and in Dubai.”
Team Captain Chris Tiu said that reaching the semi-finals was the goal. But that assessment was made back when the team had a complete line-up. With a dramatically altered roster, Gilas was surprised that they even made it to the quarterfinals.
Tiu offered that all the travels may have taken its toll on the team. They had tournaments in Australia last March, followed by another in Serbia and the US the month after. Fatigue snuck up on them and injuries shortened their rotation. Chris admitted he was playing 35 to 36 minutes, every single day. The way their schedule was, they had their break on the first day and played every game day from there, unlike others who were able to rest midway. “We played 4 straight games and three more in the quarterfinals so it was really tiring”. Apart from Tiu, Barocca and Mac Baracael also logged in the most number of minutes and had little time to recover.
“We have to adjust and get used to (the schedule). It’s a learning experience for us despite the 7th place finish” shared the team captain. Coach Rajko though believes they still made a good impression out there.
Apart from addressing the injuries, the most immediate concern they must tackle is their naturalization candidate. Milan Vucicevic came with the team from Serbia and has been lauded for his attitude. “He was a big help. He was out with injury before coming to the Philippines but he committed to play with us and showed a lot of dedication. He really tried to get in shape. At the start, he was struggling but every game, you could see all the improvements. He’s 6’10 and thick so he helped with rebounding and defense, he also had good post moves and is smart”, shared Tiu. He adds that Milan has a one of a kind attitude. On and off the court, he’s a great leader, always encouraging and staying positive.
Unfortunately Milan was given the pink slip. Coach Rajko said he played good and is a team player but he just played his role. They need someone to push and anchor the team.
In comes Marcus Douthit, 30 years old, 6’11”. He was drafted by the Lakers, played in the D-league and also played in Russia against some of the best in the land. Douhit carried an average of 15 points and 10 rebounds in a high level of competition, against some of the best Euro players.
Let’s see if he’s the one. Tiu relays that the best kind of import would be one with the size and the ability to bang inside of Jamal Sampson, the athleticism and energy of CJ Giles, and the positive outlook and the discipline of Milan Vucicevic. That would be the perfect candidate for naturalization. Then again, anyone with a package like that would be in the NBA.
Photos courtesy of FIBA ASIA
A 10 year sports casting veteran, Patricia Bermudez-Hizon is the first and only female basketball anchor in the Philippines covering the PBA and the PBL. She’s worked the sidelines as a courtside reporter since 2002, but her trade has also brought her to cover the Olympic Games, Asian Games and South East Asian Games doing commentary for swimming, diving, beach and indoor volleyball, gymnastics, equestrian, judo, wushu, karate, taekwondo, cycling and other disciplines. She shares her thoughts, insights, experience and other privileged information as an insider, a fan, and a wanna-be athlete and adventure seeker with Yahoo! Philippines. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org