MANILA, Philippines – Even as the Gilas Cadets, reinforced by Marcus Douthit, bowled over the opposition by an average of 68.4 points at the recent Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championships, coach Tab Baldwin isn’t taking the competition lightly in the Philippines’ bid for a 17th gold medal in men’s hoops at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore on June 5-16.
Since the SEA Games welcomed the Philippines in 1977, basketball has been played in the biennial 11-nation conclave in 17 of 19 stagings. The Philippines has won 16 gold medals so far with Malaysia the only other country to hit paydirt in 1989. Basketball was not played in the SEA Games in Manila in 2005 because of the Philippines’s suspension by FIBA and in the 2009 edition in Laos because of the host nation’s prerogative.
Gilas Cadets team manager Butch Antonio said the other day practices continue to be held every day from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Meralco gym until departure for Singapore. “Coach Tab made two changes from the SEABA lineup with Bobby Ray (Parks) leaving for the US to try his luck in the NBA summer league and Russell (Escoto) out because he wasn’t in the original roster submitted to the SEA Games organizers last March,” said Antonio. “After the SEABA Championships, coach Tab gave the team a one-week break then resumed daily practice except for two days to allow those playing in the PBA D-League to finish their commitments. Coach Tab doesn’t want the team to lose its tenacity. The guys are in shape so coach Tab wants to keep that edge. We’re bringing in two new guys, Baser (Amer) and Prince (Rivero), so there will be some adjustments to be made.”
In the initial 12-man cast submitted to the SEA Games organizers, Parks and Arnold Van Opstal were included. Antonio said Parks and Van Opstal were replaced for medical reasons by Amer and Rivero. The final roster is composed of 5-10 Amer, 22, 6-4 Rivero, 20, 6-3 Mac Belo, 20, 6-4 Kevin Ferrer, 22, 5-10 Jiovani Jalalon, 22, 6-4 Glenn Khobuntin, 22, 6-0 Kiefer Ravena, 21, 6-3 Troy Rosario, 23, 6-1 Scottie Thompson, 21, 6-6 Norbert Torres, 25, 5-10 Almond Vosotros, 25 and 6-11 Marcus Douthit, 35. Assisting Baldwin in the SEA Games are Jimmy Alapag, Nash Racela and Mike Oliver.
“We don’t intend to lose in Singapore,” said Antonio. “We did extremely well at the SEABA Championships although coach Tab joined us only for the last two games against Brunei and Singapore. Nash and Mike coached the team from the start. Everyone played well. It was a wonderful display of selfless basketball. Everyone got to play good minutes and the rotation was excellent. Kiefer, Troy and Mac were outstanding but guys like Jiovani and Scottie also delivered. It was something to watch the guys play. It wasn’t just to entertain the Filipino fans who came out to watch. It was more to show our high level of play. For the SEA Games, coach Tab is careful not to take any team lightly. Coach Tab was proud of the guys, the way they performed and played together at the SEABA Championships. This is a special team, it’s not just that the players symbolize the future of Gilas but also the future of Philippine basketball.”
Douthit played sparingly at the SEABA Championships and didn’t even check in against Laos and Brunei. He was scoreless in 11:58 minutes against Indonesia, shot two points in 18:42 against Malaysia and had 16 points in 19:52 against Singapore. Thailand, runner-up in basketball at the last two SEA Games, skipped the SEABA Championships but will play in Singapore.
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At the SEABA Championships, different players led the charge in every game. Parks had 15 points and six rebounds while Torres, Jalalon and Ravena collected three assists each in the Philippines’ 92-36 win over Indonesia. Rosario fired 19 points and Thompson picked up 10 rebounds and seven assists in the 124-37 blowout over Laos. Ravena netted 15 points, Torres grabbed nine rebounds and Jalalon had six dimes in the 104-42 decision over Malaysia. Parks had 19 points, Rosario eight rebounds and Thompson 12 assists in the 140-29 demolition of Brunei. Douthit registered 16 points and seven rebounds while Jalalon issued four assists in the 82-56 triumph over Singapore.
In the SEA Games, the Philippines is bracketed in Group A with Malaysia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. In Group B are Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. The draw was held last April 30 and the teams were ranked according to how they finished in 2013 except for Vietnam and Timor-Leste which didn’t participate in Myanmar. The Gilas Cadets open their campaign against Indonesia on June 10 then play Malaysia on June 11 and Timor-Leste on June 12. The top two finishers of each group advance in the crossover knockout semifinals on June 14 with the survivors disputing the gold medal on June 15. The games will be held at the OCBC Arena Hall in Kallang.
The women’s team, coached by Pat Aquino, will play a single round-robin against Thailand on June 9, Vietnam on June 10, Malaysia on June 11, Indonesia on June 12 and Singapore on June 15 with the top placer earning the gold medal. The Philippines has never won the gold medal in women’s basketball at the SEA Games. The overall haul has been eight silver and five bronze medals. Thailand has dominated the women’s division the last two SEA Games.
The Perlas basketball team is composed of Amby Almazan, Ewon Arayi, Afril Bernardino, Fria Bernardo, Clare Castro, Shelley Gupilan, Danica Jose, Allana Lim, Raisa Palmera, Cindy Resultay, Sofia Roman and Camille Sambile. Assisting Aquino will be Aris Dimaunahan and Julie Amos. Team manager is Wilbert Loa. Perlas is supported by Ever Bilena CEO and Blackwater team owner Dioceldo Sy.