Gilas leaves much room for growth after Iran scrimmage

MANILA, Philippines – It was the first real 5-on-5 venture of this Gilas Pilipinas iteration since the pool was formed last year. And it certainly looked like it.

The Philippine national men’s basketball team left plenty of room for improvement after a scrimmage with Iran’s national team, achieving its goal of education, gaining perspective and experience, and identifying points to work on moving forward. 

Defensively, Iran was a little bit too quick for us in the execution of their offense and that’s something that we would expect from a team that’s a little bit ahead of us (in training). Their speed was impressive,” head coach Tab Baldwin said at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong after the scrimmage, which is part of both teams’ preparations for the upcoming FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July. (READ: Gilas set for training, tune-ups in Europe for Olympic Qualifier)

The scrimmage met Baldwin’s expecations in that it yielded more opportunities for adjustments before the team flies out to Greece, then Turkey, and Italy for training camps and pocket tournaments – a month-long journey abroad where building chemistry will be key. 

“Our attention to detail defensively was lacking. But that’s what the camp was for,” he explained. “I’m pleased that we’ve put the talent out on the court that we can put out there. But the cohesion and chemistry, we’re still short of that. But that doesn’t surprise me. Another game tomorrow, it will be competitive. It’ll be tough. It’ll be education for us.

The scrimmage, which was closed to the public, was played to suit the coaches in order to “work on situations,” as Baldwin put it. This meant the teams played 4 10-minute quarters where after each period, the scores were reset to 0.

Baldwin particularly experimented with various player combinations, including the much-anticipated one with big men June Mar Fajardo and Andray Blatche manning the frontline together.  (READ: Haddadi-Fajardo duel not happening at Iran-Gilas tune-up games)

It was not exactly pretty for Gilas as they understandably struggled with execution and even more with rhythm and flow. Though the Filipinos, who were generally tentative and slow, evened things out against a much more cohesive Iran, winning two of the 4 quarters. 

“I think more than winning and losing, perhaps the whole team just saw what the results of what we’ve been doing the past weeks,” noted guard LA Tenorio in Filipino. “Obviously, it’s not too good. It didn’t look good because this is our first tune-up game together. But that’s expected. The coaching staff’s expectation is that it won’t be perfect right away.” 

An entire month of full-time training and a fruitful WABA Championship stint were distinct in the way the Iranians shot well from long range, confidently moved the ball around, dictated the pace to their liking, and slammed home a number of opportunities on the offensive glass or off Gilas turnovers.

Iran opted not play its two veterans Arsalan Kazemi and Oshin Sahakian just yet. The match was fast but also physical. (READ: Younger Iran aims to gain experience in tune-up vs Gilas Pilipinas)

Cadet Kiefer Ravena and back-up import Mo Tautuaa were the only two guys did not play in the scrimmage, and Baldwin said he does not know if he’ll field them in on Wednesday night, June 8, during the legitimate tune-up game for paying fans. 

Their role within the group has always been pretty explicit. I’d love to get them opportunities to play for no other reason but just to say thank you for the sacrifice they’ve made and everything they’ve done,” he said. “But they know what we’re here, preparing for and they’re on board with the preparation plan. If we can get them out there, we will.

Wednesday’s tune-up game will be played at the Smart Araneta Coliseum at 7:00 pm with tickets on sale via TicketNet. 

The expectations were low for the scrimmage. It will be a little different on Wednesday night. 

I think,” Baldwin said, “we’ll be a little more settled, more focused on the game plan and the strategic issues that we’re trying to address right now.– Rappler.com