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Pressure and expectations will be high for the Philippines as Group Phase and Final Round hosts of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023. There are still many concerns about the team, but the hope is that energetic fans can carry Gilas Pilipinas to success.
Chot Reyes’ team will be led by naturalized star Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz, a player that gives Gilas a serious scoring threat. The roster is also highlighted by the young big man Kai Sotto, the brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravenna, marksman Bobby Ray Parks, Jr and center June Mar Fajardo.
AJ Edu is another player who could make an impact with his physical nature. Reyes will need a healthy Dwight Ramos at the guard spot while Jaime Malonzo and Rhenz Abando could really give the team some extra dynamics.
Who will help and give Jordan Clarkson scoring support?
There is not just a single question about Gilas heading into the World Cup. There are several. Reyes needs to figure out how he can give Clarkson scoring support. There is concern about a lack of consistency and chemistry. Only one player – Ramos – played more than six games in the Asian Qualifiers.
Another concern has to be about the late arrival of Clarkson, and Sotto’s back problem that prevented him from joining the preparations until August 15. How will the moving parts come together in time to form a unit that can rely on one another?
The fantastic support of fans in Manila will carry the team past the First Round, which is the first goal for this team. Clarkson plays some of the best basketball in his life and Edu and Sotto help on the offensive end while anchoring a defense that was a concern going into the tournament.
The shooters also remain hot throughout the tournament and Gilas storms into the Second Round.
Gilas hope Kai Sotto is over a back problem and plays at his best
Kai Sotto, who dealt with a back issue in the run-up to the World Cup and was only cleared to practice 10 days before the start of the tournament, is not 100%.
Clarkson never gets any offensive support with Gilas’ shooters missing every open look.
The team also never clicks chemistry-wise which causes major issues at the defensive end.
This would be a catastrophic scenario if all three of those concerns go wrong. It is Reyes’ job to make sure that the story will be different.