Without Blatche, Gilas play will be altered in a lot of ways. We know what Blatche can bring to the table, having been an experienced and skilled player, who made a name for himself after playing for the Washington Wizards and later, with the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA some years back.
The 6-11 Blatche has reinforced the team in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain, helping the national team nail its first win in the world championships to end its 40-year drought.
But I think the Asia Cup, which will feature Oceania powerhouse teams Australia and New Zealand for the first time in the expanded format, could still be advantageous in a way for Gilas even without Blatche.
Here are my personal thoughts on the Lebanon basketball joust:
1. June Mar’s time to shine: June Mar Fajardo has dominated the PBA the last 3 years as evidenced by his championship collections (5 as of the latest count) and 3 MVP trophies. But the one thing Pinoy hoop fans eagerly want to see is the Cebuano gentle giant making his presence felt in the international front. His first Gilas stint in the 2013 FIBA Asia cage joust in Manila saw him play limited minutes behind Marcus Douthit. In he FIBA World Cup in 2014 in Spain, June Mar had his best showing in Gilas’ 81-79 overtime win against Senegal 2015, tallying 15 points and 9 rebounds while taking the spot of the fouled-out Andray Blatche. He wasn’t part of the Gilas side that took home the silver in the 2015 FIBA Asia joust, before returning to action in the 2016 FIBA OQT in Manila, averaging 12.5 minutes and yielding just 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 2 games versus France and New Zealand. I believe June Mar still has a lot to show in the international front and the tourney in Lebanon is his time to shine.
2. New stars will emerge: The recent Jones Cup stint gave some of our cadet players an opportunity to gain experience playing against taller, disciplined teams. The FIBA Asia Cup will offer a whole new level of competition, which will be beneficial for Gilas as it tangles with perennial powerhouse China, along wiith Qatar and Iraq in the initial phase starting Ausgust 8. Gilas youngsters Jio Jalalon, Carl Cruz, Roger Pogoy and Matthew Wright will get the much-needed experience in Lebanon, which will prepare them for more international tournaments ahead, especially since they are young and will surely be among the front runners in future national teams.
3. Good prep for the Asian World Cup qualifiers: Regardless of the FIBA Asia Cup outcome, the Gilas coaching staff will have a better idea on the kind of composition the team must have when it begins the Asian World Cup qualifiers this November. Gilas will be facing Oceania giant Australia and long-time Asian rivals Japan and Chinese Taipei in the opening round of the new home-and-away qualifying phase for the next FIBA World Cup set in China in 2019.