The Smart Gilas Program

First of all, we need to be reminded on why the Smart Gilas program was established in the first place. Essentially, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) was starting to get tired of lending its players to the National Team, and not getting consistent, good results (i.e., medal standing finishes). The Samahang Basketbolista ng Pilipinas or SBP therefore offered an alternative, and it is the Smart Gilas program.

Smart Gilas Logo, courtesy of www.larongbuko.comThe program aims to form a national team mainly of players outside of the PBA, and keep it for a relatively long time. It will have good funding, good training programs, good exposure in international competitions, and have the best available coaches possible.

The pool of Smart Gilas players ended up composed mostly of the best players from local colleges, and so called Fil-Foreigners (players with mixed foreign and Filipino blood) from schools abroad. Some of these Fil-Foreigners have excellent credentials, coming from US NCAA Division 1 schools.

In terms of execution, I think the program has done very well so far. It has been able to get most of the best college players in the country, and has been able to discover Fil-Foreign talent as well. It has been able to expose these players in various international competitions all over the world. It has the best coaches available to it, and funding (or money) is almost never a problem.

In hindsight, though, it would seem to me that the progam is in fact, a RETROGRESSION for the Philippines. This program reminds me of the USA’s policy before of sending its best college players to compete in major international tournaments. It worked for awhile, but when the world started to catch up to the US in basketball starting around the 1990s, it ended up being a disaster, in that the US National Team was being beaten by other countries, shutting it out of the medal race.

Nowadays, the US’ National Basketball Association (NBA) is allowing its best players to play in major international tournaments, as long as the player is willing to play. And here we are, generally keeping our pros from playing in international competitions, and getting college players instead.

‘Experience, and Survival of the Fittest’
The US College Players failed for a number of reasons, first of which was the fact that they were boys playing against men. You had players in their late teens and early twenties playing against players who were in their mid twenties to early thirties, or players who easily have a five or ten year advantage in terms of experience.

Another, more important factor, is the fact that the colleger players were not the best in the country. They were the best in college, but not in the whole country. They therefore were not sorted out from a selection of the best the country can offer.
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2009-08-14 RP Loses to Jordan 81-70

* The final stats says it all: They shot better than us overall, while we shot miserably off the floor. They were 55% from the two-point area, to our 38%, and they were 32% from the three-point area, to our 26%. This reflects our problems on offense, and on defense against this team. They also had 11 more rebounds at 49 to 38.

* The game was close in the first quarter, they only led by five, 22-17, with us with our three-point shots, and them with their offensive rebounding. The first quarter stats, though, showed the danger: They were shooting 69% from the two-point area, since they were shooting nearer the basket, and they had 7 more rebounds at 14, double that of ours. We only shot 38% from the two-point area, having trouble scoring on the inside because of their defense.

* They started to pull away when their three-point shots started falling late in the second quarter, while ours turned sour, which was eventually going to happen. From a five point lead in the second quarter, this ballooned to twelve at the half,45-33. The Jordanians were still shooting very well at the two-point area at the half, 60% to our 33%. They also hit 35% of their three-point shots to our 29%, and had 11 more rebounds, 26 to 15.

* They further increased their lead in the third quarter to 15 points, 67-52. They sort of relaxed, and we were able to cut the lead down to five midway thru the last quarter, before exerting back their strenght on the offensive boards, and making a couple of good penetrations to bring back the lead to double digits.

‘The Jordanian National Team’
* Their big man Idais had a very quiet 18 points in the first half, six of them from the three-point area, the rest inside for high percentage shots. The other big man, Abbas had 9 rebounds at the half, also wrecking havoc inside. Idais eventually ended up with 20 points, while Abbas with 16 rebounds.
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2009-08-11 RP Loses To Iran, 88-78

* At the half, the Iranians had a seventeen point lead, hitting 65% percent of their two-point shots, while we hit only 38%; Rebounds was surprisingly close, Iran only had five more at 20 to 15. They did have 10 more assists, and five more steals, 7 to 2. They shot very well from the three-point area, hitting 44% of their shots to our 39%.

‘The Iranian National Team’
* Ehaddadi has a live contract with the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA until 2013. He was just incredible in this game, changing shots, blocking shots, intimidating everybody who tried to score in the lane.

* On offense, nothing fancy inside the paint, just catch the ball, keep it up over his head, spin around if necessary, and then just shoot the ball in, knowing there was nobody in our team who could block or intimidate his shot. His percentage in the first half was very high, he almost didn’t miss when he takes a shot inside the paint. It was sure two points when he got the ball in that area. He had 17 points, and 8 rebounds at the half.

* He also has a nice finesse game, though, hitting a couple of fadeaway shots from the perimeter, as if he needed to fadeaway since nobody from the team could block his shots. But it just shows the level of skill this guy has as a big man.

* One thing about this Iranian team, is that it is not only tall, but also fast. They attacking the basket almost on every fastbreak opportunity. They were able to finish a couple of fastbreak plays, putting a lot of pressure on us to keep up with them defensively. It seems a lot of our fouls in the first half came from trying to stop fastbreak opportunities from the other team. On the other hand, I couldn’t remember us making a lot of fastbreak plays in that period because they were able to keep up with us when we tried to run.
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2009-08-07 RP Beats Japan 78-69

* The 2-point Field Goal percentages at the half were actually close, expect that the Japanese took about 10 more attempts than us. They also had seven more rebounds than us, but we had seven more three point attempts, and hit a higher rate of them at 38% to their 33%. Another stat to consider, was the fact that we had six more fouls than them, a reflection of our more physical type of defense.

* The most striking stats for me, would be the 2-pt. ield goal shooting of the big men from both sides. The Takeuchi twins only hits from 31-38% of their shots. On the other hand, Taulava and Thoss hit 83% and 88%, respectively. Those are PHENOMENAL numbers, meaning the Takeuchi twins couldn’t defend against them, while the twins themselves have trouble scoring against our frontline.

* Miller also hit 71% of his 2-pt. shots, another spectacular effort, aside from dishing out 4 assists, and having only 2 turnovers in the game.

‘The Japanese National Team’
* Both teams essentially played man to man defense all throughout the game.

* I can now see why the Japanese big men were shooting so poorly in the game. They have trouble against a physical defense, especially in a half court game. They have good low post moves, but once our big men bodied up on them, the miss their shots, or lose the ball. The only way they could score, was either anchoring fastbreak plays, free-throws, or outside shots. ‘Medyo mahihina ang katawan;, despite their medium body build. You could call these guys as “soft”, in a way, despite their good rebounding numbers.
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2009-07-23 RP Loses to South Korea, 80-83

* Stats for the RP NT for the games before the South Korea game: 21 turnovers per game, and 24 fouls per game.

* Stats for Sonny Thoss before the South Korea game: 5 points, 3 rebounds per game. A bit lame, especially in terms of rebounds for a big man.

* Japeth Aguilar’s stats before the South Korea game: 10 points, 7 rebounds (team leader in rebounds) but 3 turnovers per game. Shooting very, very well though, thanks to those dunks, with a 58% Field Goal percentage.

* At the half stats: Miraculously, the RP NT with only 6 turnovers, same as Sokor. A much more controlled game for the RP NT. Field goal percentages, Free Throw percentages about even, but with Sokor with more assists, 9 to 4. They also had 5 steals to our 0, and made more three point shots, 5 to 2. They had a higher percentage off the three-point shot, 5 out of 13 made to our 2 to 13, but we made more points in the paint, 22 to 12.

‘The South Korean National Team’
* Typical Sokor game, wherein they took and made a lot of outside shots. They had three three-point shots in the first quarter, two successive ones by their big men right from the starting minute. And you really can’t leave this South Korean team free for a medium range shot. Almost all of them can hit that shot if given the opportunity.
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2009-07-22 RP Loses To Lebanon, 83-95

* Stats shown at the start of the game: RP team averaged nineteen point seven (19.7) turnovers per game. I was expecting higher numbers, but nevertheless, that’s a bit high for any team.

* Willie Miller in the last three games (prior to the Lebanon game) averaged 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists per game on 53% shooting. Too bad no stats about his turnovers, but his shooting clip is pretty good, especially for a Guard.

* Aguilar’s stats before the Lebanon game: 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds per game.

* Turnover stats up to the third quarter: Lebanon, 11. Philippines, 21. Nine turnovers for the RP Team in the third quarter alone. But that’s because we play too many players at the court at any given time. This was evident in the Bench scoring, where RP had 40, Lebanon, 9.

* The RP Team surprisingly had more rebounds up to the third quarter, 19 to 26.
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2007-07-21 RP Loses To Japan, 85-87

‘The Japanese National Team’
* One thing about this Japanese team, is their flexibility on defense. They don’t stay with a particular type of defense very long, they are able to adjust quickly within a quarter from zone, to man to man, to zone again. Very flexible. And unpredictable.

* I am impressed with Japan’s big man, Koseki Takeuchi. Not very athletic, but with a lot of skill and coordination. Has a good outside shot, good spin move, a good rebounder. Not flashy like Aguilar, but effective nonetheless. Even more so, scoring twelve points at the half, and another twelve in the second half bringing his total point production to twenty four. All of RP’s big men had problems guarding him. Kerby got a couple of fouls in the second quarter off him, and Aguilar gave him two quick successive fouls in the third quarter.

‘The Philippine National Team’
* One main thing to worry about this game, is that it seems we have problems scoring against the zone defense. Whenever Japan gets into trouble, they just go into the zone, and we end up having problems scoring against it since we are forced to take shots from the outside.

* This happened twice in the game: When we went into a nineteen point lead in the first quarter, and then when we went into a twelve point lead in the third quarter. Both times Japan switched from man to man to zone, and our lead vanished.

* Miller had a very bad first half. He took quite a lot of shots in the first half, but missed most of it. His percentages off the floor was simply horrendous in that first half. He also committed a number of turnovers in that period. He did have a good run in the second half, but overall I think his percentages from the floor was not very good.
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