Jio Jalalon was part of the last Philippines team that saw action in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association Championship held 2 years ago in Singapore.
That team annihilated the competition by an average margin of 68.4 points. And it did so by fielding a roster of Marcus Douthit mixed with collegiate players, including Arellano University's Jalalon.
On Friday, Gilas Pilipinas begins the 12th edition of the regional tournament boasting a hyper-loaded lineup, one that’s composed of June Mar Fajardo, Jayson Castro and other big guns of the PBA.
“Kailangan overkill ito,” said Robbie Puno, vice chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the sport’s national governing body.
“Remember this is a tournament that’s going to be held in the Philippines. I think it’ll be a lot of fun if we blow out all of our opponents every single game in front of the home crowd.”
|Gilas Pilipinas Seaba schedule (All games 7 p.m.)|
|May 12 (Friday) -- Myanmar|
|May 13 (Saturday) -- Singapore|
|May 14 (Sunday) -- Malaysia|
|May 15 (Monday) break|
|May 16 (Tuesday) -- Thailand|
|May 17 (Wednesday) -- Malaysia|
|May 18 (Thursday) -- Indonesia|
Judging by Gilas’ history in Seaba, expect the hosts to inflict a bloodbath.
Consider these previous results:
- In 2011, the Philippines saw withdrawals by national team mainstays Jimmy Alapag, Asi Taulava and Kelly Williams and still pulverized the opposition by an average margin of 40.3 points.
- In 2009, Yeng Guiao, the team’s coach at the time, considered Malaysia to be the Philippines’ toughest opponent. The Filipinos won their game by 27 points, and the tournament by an average of 38.
- In 2007, the Philippines used a squad of amateurs, PBA newbies and journeymen. The Filipinos thumped the field by an average of 38.5 points.
Gilas’ lineup for the 7-day Seaba competition to be held at Araneta Coliseum is so strong it’s as if it’s preparing to face a team in the top 50 in FIBA’s rankings. In reality, Gilas’ highest-ranked opponent in Seaba is No. 72 Indonesia, followed by Thailand at No. 81. The Philippines is No. 27 in the world.
It's the job of Chot Reyes and the Gilas coaches to err on the side of caution. The last thing they want to happen is for Gilas, a versatile mix of veterans and young blood such as Jalalon, to take its opponents lightly because disaster — as unfathomable as it seems — can strike if the team relaxes.
One issue keeping Gilas assistant coach Jong Uichico and the rest of the staff on their toes is the possibility that other federations would use naturalized players. Uichico calls the opponents' recruitment plans “a big question mark.”
Another concern is the lack of sufficient intel on the competition.
“We’ve done the best we can in terms of scouting,” Uichico said. “It’s kind of difficult to scout them because they’re not on TV. They can easily scout us. We’re all over (the place).”
Still, it would take a major letdown, perhaps an off-game by all players, for the 7-time Seaba champions to lose one game.
Even if the other teams call up a naturalized reinforcement, they don't have a squad that's 1-to-12 strong like Gilas. And even if they have the X's and O's down pat, knowing the game plan is one thing but executing them against a country that lives and breathes basketball is another.
On top of every physical advantage that Gilas has, Reyes and co. are more focused than ever because of what's at stake — winning Seaba is a mere stepping stone for its longer-term objective of reaching the FIBA World Cup.
So add the might of its personnel and the resoluteness of its purpose, it's difficult to envision a realistic scenario in which this Gilas team, in front of a home crowd no less, can lose.