Despite Erram retirement, Gilas still rich on ‘big’ talent

Poy Erram Gilas Pilipinas

FILE – Gilas Pilipinas’ Poy Erram during a game against Japan in the Fiba Asia Cup. Photo from Fiba

Poy Erram’s announcement on Sunday that he will retire from national team duty comes at a time when Gilas Pilipinas could be fielding its best big-man lineup in recent memory.

Veterans Japeth Aguilar and June Mar Fajardo, a six-time Most Valuable Player in the Philippine Basketball Association, are currently in the mix for roster spots in the squad that will compete in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup—along with 6-foot-10 AJ Edu and the recovering 7-foot-3 NBA hopeful Kai Sotto.

“It was always a dream. But to be doing it now is pretty surreal, pretty amazing. You know, I have to pinch myself now and then that I’m part of the team preparing for the World Cup,” Edu said of potentially cracking Gilas’ final roster in a recent radio interview.

“I love a challenge. Obviously, these guys (players in the World Cup) are at the top of the top. That’s what you aim for—to be competing against the top of the top. I’m just really relishing and looking forward to something like that,” Edu added.

The 6-foot-7 Erram, a defensive whiz who plays for TNT, announced his retirement in a social media post just as he continues to recover from a knee procedure that essentially ruled him out of the Fiba World Cup that the Philippines will be hosting beginning Aug. 25.

“I want to thank each person who trusted and helped me,” he wrote in Filipino. “Thank you for giving me a chance to fight for my country. Thank you for letting my dreams become a reality.”

“Just by wearing that jersey having that name in front always gave me goosebumps because not a lot of players have that chance to play and represent the country,” he added.

Erram is the latest cut from the Gilas training squad priming for the global showcase that will dangle a ticket to the Summer Olympic Games in Paris next year.

Moving forward

Even moving forward past the World Cup and even the Asian Games this year, Gilas Pilipinas will have little problems with size as naturalized center Ange Kouame, the 6-foot-11 center from Ateneo, remains an option for the team in other international tournaments.

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ rivals have been posting contrasting results in their respective preparatory games geared toward the global showcase.

World No. 10 Italy has been on a tear, ruling the Trentino Cup and the Acropolis International Basketball Tournament behind the fine showing of Simone Fontecchio, Clarkson’s teammate at Utah Jazz.

The Blues were set to battle Puerto Rico on Sunday evening (Manila time), looking to improve their 4-0 record which features wins over Greece, Serbia and Asian powerhouse China.

The Dominican Republic, Gilas’ assignment on opening night, faded against Latvia on Saturday, 74-69. The Dominicans were without Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl Anthony-Towns, who was also absent in the squad’s earlier defeat at the hands of Puerto Rico.

Angola’s struggles, on the other hand, are much more apparent as it continued to skid following a 72- 68 loss to Japan in a tune-up match also held Saturday. The Black Antelopes dropped all their three outings in the King’s Cup in Jordan, unable to follow up their victory over Venezuela two weeks ago. INQ

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