(Centers) – Marcus Douthit, Sonny Thoss, Enrico Villanueva, JR Reyes
(Forwards) – Ranidel De Ocampo, Gabe Norwood, Jared Dillinger, Matthew Ross, Larry Fonacier
(Guards) – LA Tenorio, Gary David, Jeff Chan
(Head Coach) – Chot Reyes
(Assistant Coaches) – Jong Uichico, Ryan Gregorio, Josh Reyes
Mac Baracael, Garvo Lanete and Sol Mercado were initially part of the team that competed in the 2012 Jones Cup Tournament, but were later released as the team was pared down to only 12 men as per FIBA rules for major tournaments. Jared Dillinger took the place of Solomon Mercadon for the main 2012 FIBA Asia Cup Tournament.
For this incarnation of the Men’s National Basketball team, Chot tried a couple of things different from the previous National Teams. First was having a Naturalized Center in Marcus Douthit. Marcus was a fit for the team both on and off the court. He has great low post moves, a decent outside shot, a great rebounder an excellent shot blocker as well. He is also great in terms of catching the ball inside the paint and going strong to the basket.
Attitude-wise, he is quiet and unassuming, never one to hog the limelight, and just goes on to try to do his job game in and game out. He knows how to pace himself, usually deferring to his teammates initially. But he also knows when to step up and take charge if needed, like whenever he sees his team faltering during the game. Overall, Marcus was about as close to perfect as we could get for a naturalized big man, and credit the coaching staff for making an excellent choice in him.
The only chink in his armor is his age, he is already 32 years old as of 2012, and no doubt only has a couple more years of active, competitive play left in him.
On offense, Chot used a “Dribble-Drive” Philosophy where the primary offensive option used is the drive to the basket, and just kicking it out to shooters in designated spots, in or out of the paint. It also emphasized moving the ball around to find the open man if the first player passed to is covered, and then to start the cycle again if necessary. This made for an exciting brand of play, emphasizing teamwork and quick passes.
On defense, Chot emphasized on non-stop hustle type of defense wherein the players try tp disrupt the passing lanes, and cover their defensive men as much as possible at all times. This entails a lot of work, and a lot of conscious effort to play defense all game thru.
Chot emphasized on height, athleticism and versatility in choosing his players. He wanted athleticism so the players can execute both offense and defense quickly, and he wanted tall players who can play different positions on the court, hoping to create mismatches against the other teams in terms of either height or quickness. Hence you have players like Ranidel De Ocampo, Gabe Norwood, Jared Dillinger, Matthew Ross and Larry Fonacier on the team, five players, all of whom have a combination of these three qualities.
One surprise was in choosing only one “true” Point Guard (at least by Philippine standards) in LA Tenorio. I think this was in deferrence to Manny V. Pangilinan (the team’s owner) in insisting on a taller backcourt. Chot couldn’t altogether rule out not having a true Point Guard, so as a compromise he only chose one. LA was the shortest player on the team, and the only one listed under 6’0″. Gabe Norwood and Matthew Ross took turns as alternate Point Guards for the team.
As insurance, Chot got two designated shooters in Gary David and Jeff Chan, both of whom have not seen action in the National Team recently, but have been doing great in the PBA. Chot also made sure to choose players who would fit his philosophies for the team instead of choosing the best available players around.
The team started out well, winning seven of its eight games, enroute to winning the 2012 Jones Cup title, the Philippnes first in the last 14 years of the tournament. It did so by beating the US National team on its last game of the tournament. We haven’t beaten a US National team in a long time, and despite the fact that the US team was NOT composed mostly of US NCAA Division 1 Stars (or even US NCAA Division 1 PLAYERS), it was still quite an achievement whenever you beat a national team from the best Basketball country in the world.
The team displayed exceptional cohesion on offense with dribble-drive plays and passing, and played excellent, pervasive defense which often stymied opponents. The win captured the imagination of the country, even resulting in national citations from the Legislature, and an invitation to Malacanang.
In its main tournament for the year, the 2012 FIBA-Asia Cup, it started off well, losing by only 2 points to a young Chinese team, and then making three straight wins over Lebanon, Macau and Chinese Taipei, before suffering two straight losses against Iran and Qatar, finishing 4th overall and missing an automatic berth to the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships.
The problem with the team is that it had to play a high-octane, high-energy type of game on both ends of the floor, one it consequently could NOT SUSTAIN in a major tournament. In a minor tournament like the Jones Cup, it did well, but when the real prize came, the team found itself playing harder as its opponents were now playing for real and exerting 100% effort.
It’s hard to blame the coaching staff for this, as they maintained at least a nine-man rotation for most of the tournament, and yet the players still ended up exhausted, unable to maintain such an unrelenting effort towards the tail end of the tournament. This is the reason why on its last two games, their shooting percentages from the outside went way down, and their turnovers went way up.
One glaring statistic was the fact that the team always ended up being outrebounded when going up against the taller and stronger teams. This was a clear proof of the team’s lack of size compared to these opponents. It was able to overcome this initially, but only up to a certain point, until long-term fatigue set in.
One could argue that perhaps the Coaching Staff could’ve dug deeper into its bench, maintaining a 10, 11, or even 12 man regular rotation. But that is a bit far-fetched, because no team in recent memory has been able to do that. Plus the fact that it could have serious repercussions to the team’s fluidity and cohesion on the court.
Again, the Philippines tries something new to overcome its height deficiencies, and again it falls short. Our opponents were not using as deep a rotation as ours, for the same number of games, but the teams we lost to were taller and heftier than us, and thus did not have to try as hard as we did. As a result, they were less burnt-out than we were in the latter part of the tournament.
The result is quite frustrating, especially if you consider the fact that two other powerhouse teams in Jordan and South Korea were not even in the tournament, hence you would think that perhaps our ranking would’ve been even lower had those two countries been present.
Another year, another new set of strategies, and another failure for the Philippines. This team is the result of the almost never-ending experiment of how a short team like the Philippines could overcome its height deficiencies and overcome taller opponents.
On a positive note, I do like very much the Dribble-Drive offense, the pervasive defense, the tall, versatile athletic players, and the up-tempo type of game. I think it is the best type of Basketball I have seen so far in a National team, emphasizing more on teamwork. The level of teamwork shown by the team is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the team was formed only months before the actual tournament. I cannot remember a team with this level of cohesion in so short a time before.
Despite its lack of success, I feel the formula started by Toroman and then polished and improved on by Chot is the best and most feasible way forward. We just need to keep improving on it, like getting even better players, and make more innovations in the hopes of finding that very elusive Basketball glory again.