A triple-tower frontcourt of 6’11” Andray Blatche, 6’11” June Mar Fajardo and 7-footer Greg Slaughter in the next Gilas team roster, with 6’9” Japeth Aguilar and 6’8” Raymond Almazan backing them up on the bench?
The possibility of such a stratospheric Gilas frontcourt emerged over the weekend after Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes revealed that Slaughter could join the next Gilas pool for the second series of home-and-away games of the 2019 FIBA World Cup early next year. Another key player that could join Gilas, according to Reyes, is San Miguel Beer’s Marcio Lassiter.
Slaughter and Lassiter were not yet included in the 24-man pool submitted to FIBA last weekend for the first Asia/Pacific qualifying window of the 2019 World Cup.
The current 24-man pool is comprised of naturalized import Blatche, San Miguel Beer’s Fajardo and Von Pessumal, Ginebra’s Aguilar and Kevin Ferrer, Rain or Shine’s Almazan and Gabe Norwood, TNT’s Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario and R. R. Pogoy, Alaska’s Calvin Abueva and Bryan Cruz, NLEX’s Kevin Alas and Kiefer Ravena, Star’s Jio Jalolon and Aldrech Ramos, Blackwater’s Mac Belo and Allein Maliksi, Meralco’s Baser Amer and Mike Tolomia, Kia’s L. A. Revilla and Russel Escoto, Phoenix’s Matthew Wright, and GlobalPort’s Terrence Romeo.
Both Slaughter and Lassiter had previous stints with Gilas. Slaughter was part of the Gilas team that won the gold at the SEABA Championships and SEA Games, both in Jakarta, in 2011. Lassiter, on the other hand, played at the 2010 FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup, 2010 Asian Games, and 2011 FIBA Asia Champions Cup.
Slaughter has made known his readiness to don the Philippine colors again if called up. However, Reyes said even if he wants to have both Slaughter and Lassiter join the team, he will still need to verify if they would be allowed by their mother PBA teams. With the current two-player-per team rule, Slaughter could replace Ferrer as Ginebra’s representative while Lassiter could take the place of Pessumal for SMB.
PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa earlier announced that there will no longer be a distinction between cadets and veterans in recruiting players for Gilas. This allows Reyes to replace cadets Ferrer and Pessumal with one veteran each from their respective teams.
From the current 24-man pool, Reyes will pick 12 to represent Gilas for the first round of qualifying games against Japan in Tokyo on Nov. 24 and against Chinese-Taipei in Manila on Nov. 27.
For the second round—Gilas against Australia on Feb. 22 and against Japan in Manila on Feb. 25—Reyes will submit another 24-man list from which to pick 12 players again. Reyes will do the same in the third round of qualifying games against Chinese-Taipei in Taipei on June 29 and Australia in Manila on July 2.
In the first round, Reyes stressed the need for Gilas to beat both Japan and Chinese Taipei ahead of the expected tough fight against world No. 9 Australia in February.
The Philippines is bracketed in Group B of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asia qualifiers together with Australia, Japan, and Chinese-Taipei. Gilas needs to make the Top 3 in its pool to advance to the next round where it will go up against the Top 3 from among Iran, Kazakhstan, Qatar and Iraq in Group D.
The ultimate objective is to make the Top 7 among 16 participating teams to be able to earn a slot in the 2019 World Cup in China and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“The goal is clear – a ticket to the 2020 Olympics,” said Reyes in a Fiba.com report.
However, Reyes’ hopes took a dip on Saturday when Gilas lost to Alab Pilipinas, 81-76, in a tune-up game.
“Well, we sucked big time,” Reyes was quoted as saying after the game. “If we play like this, we better not even go to Japan, we have no chance.”
Reyes could not see any positives from the 13 players he chose for the exhibition game: Castro, Fajardo, Almazan, Abueva, Maliksi, Pogoy, Norwood, Ravena, Belo, Alas, Wright, Rosario, and Cruz. Only Castro and Fajardo scored in double digits at 12 and 10 points, respectively.
“No positives at all,” Reyes said. “Credit to Alab, they came in they were very prepared. They outplayed us, they outfought us, they outhustled us, they outshot us. I can’t think of one positive thing in today’s ballgame.”
Alab, which is preparing for the Asean Basketball League which unfurls on Nov. 17, did not even play its top two players—import Ivan Johnson and Ray Parks due to minor injuries.
Meanwhile, Blatche continued to miss Gilas practice, failing to arrive on Sunday, his supposed arrival day. The naturalized player, however, wrote on his Instagram account that he will reunite with his Gilas “brothers real soon.”
“Be back with my brothers real soon to take care of business,” wrote Blatche on the caption with the hashtag #puso on his @draylive Instagram account on Monday.
Also missing during Monday’s practice was Romeo.