Fiba World Cup: In small-ball era, Chot Reyes has a lot of size

Chot Reyes Gilas Pilipinas Fiba World Cup

Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes. –SBP PHOTO

Basketball has gravitated toward small ball.

Gilas Pilipinas, for the first time, has naturalized a wing instead of the usual big.

Yet somehow, the. national team finds itself with its tallest roster ever.

“[It’s] pretty ironic that when we have the size, the game has gone the opposite way,” national coach Chot Reyes said during the introductory press conference on Thursday at Smart Araneta Coliseum. “During the times when it was all about size, we were the first team in the World [Cup, in 2014] to play small ball. We were playing small ball in 2013 and 2014 even before.”

“We were playing three-point guards in the worlds. Remember, when … everyone was bashing us for playing Jimmy [Alapag], Jayson [Castro] and Paul Lee together or LA [Tenorio]. And now everyone is doing that. I find that really ironic now that we have the size, the game has gone the opposite way.”

However far the game has gone the opposite way, thanks to a revolutionizing Golden State Warriors squad coached by current Team USA head tactician Steve Kerr, Reyes believes the abundance of size is, well, huge for the national squad as it launches its campaign in the World Cup.

Inside presence

Gilas Pilipinas' young towering towers AJ Edu and Kai Sotto

Gilas Pilipinas’ young towering towers AJ Edu and Kai Sotto. –FIBA BASKETBALL

“[E]ven if the game has gone the opposite way, I think having an inside presence is still very very important because every team we’ll face is going to have a strong and tough inside guy,” Reyes said.

Gilas Pilipinas will parade a front line that includes the 7-foot-3 Kai Sotto, 6-10s AJ Edu and June Mar Fajardo and 6-9 Japeth Aguilar, the team’s captain. Those bigs have given the team the luxury of tabbing Filipino-American Jordan Clarkson as its naturalized player.

But Reyes doesn’t think that added ceiling will translate into an easier campaign for Gilas. And right in the team’s first game on Friday at Philippine Arena, that frontline will get a severe test against Dominican Republic and NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns.

“I don’t think it’s physically possible for any single person on our team and perhaps even in the entire World Cup to stop Karl-Anthony Towns one-on-one,” Reyes said. “So it’s going to take a village to beat them, to stop him and Dominican because that’s not a one-man team that we’re playing tomorrow. The initial job is going to fall on the front line.”

Reyes isn’t measuring his chances against the team’s opening-day match at 8 p.m.

“I’ve learned in those nine years [coaching the national team], especially in this kind of competition to not … worry about chances,” he said.

The only odds he knows are the ones that crop up by simply being in a position to compete.

“Fifty percent is about showing up and we’re all here—putting ourselves in a 50 percent position to succeed,” Reyes said.

“We like our chances because we are here,” he said. “But that’s how it is in life.”

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