Gilas Pilipinas has become a new outfit. Starless.
That’s what our officials want them tailored.
That’s how they want the team to be known for from here on.
Coach Tab Baldwin had said it so. A team sans superstars. A team playing as a team.
Notice, therefore, that the present Gilas has no single standout. None yet, anyways. That’s because pros from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) are out the window.
Thus, this team of youngsters should have no stars to watch its back. It’s the team itself that watches the team’s back.
No matter that it has a Kai Sotto, at 7-foot-3 the tallest Filipino player ever. Only 19, he is but a project in the making.
No matter that it has an Ange Kouame, the recently naturalized 6-foot-10 shooter from three-point country.
Like Sotto, Kouame, turning 24 on Dec. 15 and originally from Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, is also a future prospect.
And remember SJ Belangel?
He was the 6-foot-flat deadshot from Bacolod City who nailed the buzzer-beating three for Gilas’ 81-78, ticket-clinching win over South Korea on Wednesday, June 16.
With that miraculous shot, Belangel, 21, pushed Gilas to the Fiba Asia Cup in August in Jakarta.
Wasn’t Belangel’s shot star stuff?
Don’t most champion teams boast of superstars?
The Lakers leaned on LeBron James to win the 2020 NBA crown.
The Raptors leaned on Kawhi Leonard to win the 2019 NBA title.
The Bulls had to lean on Michael Jordan to win six NBA trophies.
Just yesterday, the No. 4 Clippers leaned on Paul George to advance to the Western Conference Finals (4-2), erasing a 25-point halftime deficit to score a phenomenal come-from-behind 131-119 victory over the No. 1 Utah Jazz.
The list is long.
Now, how long can Gilas hold off the PBA stars?
No timeline at the moment. Touch-and-go affair, all right.
So, what are our prospects in the Olympic Qualifying in Serbia late this month?
Serbia would be a tough Game One customer for us, with Nikola Jokic, the NBA’s 2021 defensive player of the year, playing for Serbia.
And neither is Dominican Republic a pushover.
We’d be lucky to steal one win and next battle Italy and Puerto.
Thus, for now, savor the Asia Cup success. A team did it.
June 20, 2021
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