THERE seems to be no stopping Scottie Thompson from proving his true worth as a prime candidate for inclusion in Gilas Pilipinas’ quest in the FIBA World Cup.
Still recovering from a fractured ring finger, Thompson fired 11 points, grabbed four rebounds and had five feeds and displayed his high-octane court presence in Gilas’ 85-62 destruction of Ivory Coast Friday night.
Head coach Chot Reyes and Gilas are facing another African entry, this time during the actual Group stage, when they square of with Angola in their second outing.
They make their WC debut versus the Dominican Republic this Friday at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
“I think the most important thing was really the defense that we emphasized, continue working on and emphasizing the things we gained from playing in Europe and China, were there. I thought the guys played tremendous defense,” said Reyes during an interview posted on the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas’ official Facebook account.
“Angola really plays tough, they pressure the basketball. Their guards really attack the rim. They’re strong, powerful, big men and they’re very long and athletic. I think the difference is Angola is much better outside shooters than this Ivory Coast team. We played this game to prepare for them, but this is not the FIBA World Cup,” he said.
Aside from Thompson, Gilas also drew premium performances from their main men.
Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto, playing together for the first time since the FIBA Asia qualifiers, made a lot of heads turn, something that brought a smile on Reyes’ face.
“We take solace at the fact that at least we’ve got one game under our belts that we got those three guys – Clarkson, Thompson and Sotto – in,” said Reyes.
Clarkson played the first two quarters and most of the third before being given the full rest of the entire fourth frame when the game was already in the bag.
“Jordan has a couple of turnovers and that’s going to improve in the next two games. We planned his playing time today, to play the entire first half and then we started him in the third quarter, and if he’s needed, we’ll bring him in the fourth. But there’s no need for that and we decided it’s better for him to get his rest,” he added.
Clarkson and the team’s main men are expected to walk the tightrope when they play Montenegro in their second tuneup game.
The Utah Jazz standout and JuneMar Fajardo led the way for Gilas with 13 points apiece while AJ Edu, the 6-foot-10 Filipinio-Cypriot, chipped in 12 and seven rebounds.
Sotto shot five-of-six and wound up with 10 points and also got rave reviews from Reyes.
“I like the way Scottie moves. You can see that Kai was a big factor, although he’s still not 100% form his back problems, but he gives us that much-needed depth,” added Reyes.