Versatility will be Gilas Pilipinas new weapon when it competes in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers next week.
For most part of their weekly training sessions, Scottie Thompson and Jamie Malonzo of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, CJ Perez of San Miguel Beer, Calvin Oftana of TNT Tropang Giga and Chris Newsome of Meralco have been playing as facilitators during drills, giving head coach Chot Reyes the flexibility to test some offensive patterns for Gilas Pilipinas.
“As you can see, we don’t have a point guard,” Perez told Daily Tribune.
“But it’s something I’m trying to work on my game and it’s making me a better player.”
Perez, who played for the team that competed in the 2019 World Cup in China under Yeng Guiao, will have an opportunity to return to the world’s biggest stage if ever he cracks into the roster for the World Cup that will be hosted by the country, Indonesia and Japan next year.
The 6-foot-2 Perez, however, stressed that he doesn’t want to play like a two-time Philippine Basketball Association scoring champion, but as a versatile guard who can dominate the game by involving his teammates.
In the ongoing Commissioner’s Cup, Perez averaged 18 points, six rebounds and four assists, on top of being a pesky defender for the opposing guards.
Oftana, on the other hand, is another two-way player and at 6-foot-5, the former Most Valuable Player in the National Collegiate Athletic Association had shown different facets of his game in just his second season in the PBA.
Now playing for the Tropang Giga, Oftana was able to find his niche in the talent-laden squad, averaging 12 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting close to 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Using his length and athleticism, Oftana can be a good match up against taller guards playing in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers next week.
The Philippines will play away games against Jordan on 10 November and against Saudi Arabia on 13 November.
Thompson, the league’s reigning MVP, had skipped some of the weekly Gilas training to allow his calf injury to fully heal, but he had shown his ability to switch on multiple positions during the workouts.
The 6-foot-1 former University of Perpetual Help star is known to be a small forward spot, but his ability to play guard spot had allowed Reyes and the rest of the coaching staff to give the team different looks.
It’s the same case with Jamie Malonzo, the 6-foot-6 swingman, who is also capable of sliding down to the guard spots as his athleticism and speed allow him to switch against smaller guards in the international competitions.
Newsome would have given the training team more depth, but the injury he suffered just a few days ago will scrap his potential inclusion in the final 12 that will be known on the eve of the game against Jordan.
Gilas’ capability of playing multiple positions will be highlighted even more when players from the Japan B. League start rejoining the practices.
Brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena arrived last Tuesday while Dwight Ramos and Ray Parks came in a day later.