I agree with Yeng Guiao in keeping the core of the 2008 RP National Team as basis for this year’s National Team, for a couple of reasons.
First, these guys now have the experience in playing against international competition. They now know how it is like against such competition. Second, not only do they have experience playing against international competitions, they have experience playing TOGETHER against such competition.
And third, despite the low finish, I think that 2008 team was successful in the sense that in the 2007 FIBA-Asia Championships, they only lost against two tough teams, eventual champion Iran, and Jordan. That team beat China Team B not once, but TWICE. That, in itself, for me is a big accomplishment. True, that is not China Team A, but it is the SECOND best team that China could field out there, and we beat it twice.
From the core of eight players to be retained (Kelly Williams, Asi Taulava, Mick Pennisi, Jayjay Helterbrand, Mark Caguioa, Jimmy Alapag, Gabe Norwood, Kerby Raymundo), I would put Mark Caguioa on the injured list. Then I would automatically add the other two best players in the league right now, Willie Miller, and James Yap.
‘The PBA’s Best’
That’s nine players, with Caguioa on the injured list. Who else to add? I would first look for the other BEST players in the PBA, those who have PROVEN themselves in the league. That turns out to be a short list, since most of the PBA’s best are already in the team. The others who are not yet on the list, are Mac Cardona, Cyrus Baguio, and Arwind Santos. Cyrus’ numbers are down this season, plus there is doubt that his acrobatic layups will work against taller opposition. Arwind is a bit inconsistent, not at the level of Yap or Miller, but he is tall and athletic. I would put Arwind in. Mac Cardona has been doing well also, so I’ll put him in also.
That’s eleven players, the best that the PBA can offer. I would leave the last one for a big man. Since the PBA’s best of the best have been depleted, time to try to look elsewhere outside the PBA. I would rule out Greg Slaughter and Junmar Fajardo, because they haven’t proven themselves against UAAP or NCAA teams, much less the PBA. Rabeh Al-Husseini is intriguing, but then you get back to the question, is he better than any of the PBA’s average big men right now, like, say, Sonny Thoss, or Jay Washington? I don’t think so. Impressive may Rabeh be in the UAAP, he still has to rule in the PBL, the next step before the PBA.
That leaves only Japeth Aguilar. Japeth’s numbers with WKU is pathetic, but you cannot discount his height, athleticism, and US NCAA Division 1 training and experience. Then again, we go back to the question, is he better than Sonny Thoss and Jay Washington? That is a difficult question to answer. In the end, I would go for the experience of the PBA players, rather than Japeth’s limited experience in the US NCAA Division 1. But, I would consider all three into the RP National team, with Jay Washington (being more prolific than Sonny Thoss) as the twelfth man, with Japeth Aguilar and Sonny Thoss in the Reserves.
So my choices for the 2009 RP National team would be: Jayjay Helterbrand and Jimmy Alapag at Point; Asi Taulava and Mick Pennissi at Center; Kerby Raymundo, and Jay Washington at Power Forward; Kelly Williams, Gabe Norwood and Arwind Santos at Shooting Forward; Willie Miller, James Yap and Mac Cardona at Shooting Guard.
Reserves will be Mark Caguioa, Sonny Thoss and Japeth Aguilar