Last week, we discussed the need to prepare early for the FIBA World Cup this August in far-away Espana. We also discussed the possibility of changing the line-up for Spain, and the ‘Step-Down Theory’ in Basketball that governs the game as we go to higher levels of competition.
For those who failed to read my previous blog, the competition at the global level will get bigger, better and badder. Hence some adjustments may be needed for Gilas to come up with a more competitive team. The ‘Step-Down Theory’ states that in order to be more competitive, players must have the flexibility to step down to lower positions in order to tough it out.
Here’s a classic example of the rewards of the ‘Step Down Theory’ in basketball. More than three decades ago, a promising kid named Earvin Johnson tried out for his college varsity team. With his gangling 6’9″ frame, the coach wanted him to play center or power forward. He declined, and instead transferred to Michigan State where the coach would allow him to play point guard. He eventually took the team to the national championship, and even went on to star in the NBA. Imagine a point guard at 6’9″ – and this was in the 70s – when the opposition was not as tall and as competitive. Magic Johnson became the prototype point guard of the future, revolutionizing the game’s concepts and strategies. Magic’s move to a lower position speaks eloquently of the wisdom of ‘stepping down’, particularly as you go to higher levels of play.
A Marc Pingris, for instance, makes a strong case for center or power forward in the local leagues, but will simply be overmatched at that position in the global cage fights. He must then hone his small forward skills if he is to remain a potent weapon in Spain. The vastly improved Japeth Aguilar posted up as a center last year for Ginebra. With the arrival of man-mountain Greg Slaughterhouse, Coach Ato Agustin has moved Aguilar to the power forward slot, and this has worked wonders in Ginebra’s campaign in the PBA. Ginebra’s awesome Twin Towers, complimented by a strong outside threat, is a deadly combination. Imagine if Coach Ato can find a strong power forward and slide Japeth further to the small forward position! Now wouldn’t that be a veritable dynasty team in the PBA?
Looking at the Gilas team therefore, we review how each player fared in his position in the Asian regionals. If he excelled in the regionals, then he should still have a good chance to compete at the next level. If he did not, then perhaps he has reached his optimum level of play. We also try to predict how they can perform in the global arena using the ‘Step-Down Theory’. Do they have the flexibility and the demeanor to take on a new role? Note that changing positions is easier said than done. Certain adjustments have to be made in a player’s outlook as well. And it might even be necessary to make the adjustments stick, as they reenter the PBA wars.
Remember that a small forward (SF) has to be able to fill the wings on the fastbreak. He must be more effective on the perimeter, with a slasher’s drive to the basket, and a decent outside shot. The SF must have the speed, the dribbling ability, the lateral movements to give the opponent fits. A power forward (PF) or center (C), on the other hand, will more often have his back against the basket in offense, as he does mortal combat in the shaded lane. And the change in perspective doesn’t happen overnight either.
Let’s revisit the line-up of players with their respective positions: Jimmy Alapag (Point Guard or PG); LA Tenorio (PG); Jason Castro (PG); Jeff Chan (Shooting Guard or SG); Gary David (SG); Larry Fonacier (SG and Small Forward or SF); Gabe Norwood (SG/SF); Ranidel De Ocampo (SF and Power Forward or PF); Marc Pingris (PF and Center or C); Japeth Aguilar (PF/C) was a PF; Marcus Douthit (PF/C) and Junmar Fajardo (C). This review will help us in analyzing who should go to the FIBA World Cup in Spain this August.
At PG, Jayson Castro, LA Tenorio and Jimmy Alapag all played creditably in the FIBA Asia games. Although undersized, all three could drive-and-draw, could sink those dagger treys, and could find the open man if doubled or confronted with a switch. All three knew how to get everyone involved in the offense, or when to take matters in their own hands, particularly Jayson, whose efforts gained him a slot in the FIBA Asia Mythical Five Selection. Their only downside would have to be in the size department, hence the need for the team to play more man-zone.
At SG, it was Jeff Chan who stood ten feet tall, unleashing timely long-range bombs reminiscent of the country’s most revered pure shooter, Allan Caidic. Larry Fonacier spelled out Jeff more often, racking up good numbers in a couple of games. Gary David’s presence was only felt in the game against Kazakhstan, when he was given extra playing time to try to get his rhythm back. Gabe Norwood played major minutes to mark the opponent’s top gun, and he too contributed at the offensive end.
At SF, Gabe took the lead role, with Larry and Ranidel De Ocampo spelling him out on occasion. All three had sterling performances, dishing it out from the outside, or slashing in when given the opportunity, although Larry would seem undersized and was more often utilized at the SG spot.
At PF, it was Marc Pingris who clearly outshined everyone else. Marc was the rebound king in the crucial semis against South Korea, and in the finals against Iran, after Marcus Douthit got injured. Backing up Marc was the vastly-improved Japeth Aguilar, with Ranidel completing the rotation.
At C, Marcus Douthit was doing great guns until he got injured. He led the team in rebounds and blocked shots, and was clearly the vital cog in the team’s defense. He would be relieved by Marc or JunMar Fajardo, whose presence on the court was clearly for exposure only.
Based on the above evaluation, the following should be shoo-ins for the Gilas Team to Spain: Jayson Castro at PG; Jeff Chan at SG; Gabe Norwood at SF, Marc Pingris at PF; and Marcus Douthit at C. Recent developments however point to the possibility of acquiring 1 or 2 other bigger centers from the NBA to take the C slot. The names of NBA players Javale McGee and Andray Blatche are being pushed to replace Douthit.
For their splendid performance in the relief role, add in Jimmy Alapag and LA Tenorio at PG, and Japeth Aguilar at PF. The rest of the positions should be up for grabs, depending on coach Chot Reyes’ priorities and perceived team needs.
Then, the ‘Step Down Theory’ could also change the roles of some of the players mentioned. If Chot goes for bulk, JunMar and Greg Slaughterhouse could come in, and Marc and Japeth could be seeing action at the SF post. But they’ll have to adjust to learn more of the position.
If Chot needs taller shooters, Ranidel and even Beau Belga could come in at SG/SF. If he needs more scrappy defenders, he could have Beau at SF and Calvin Abueva or Arwind Santos at SG. Arwind’s versatility makes him competitive at the SG position in the global arena, but he will have to learn to make those treys with more regularity to back up Jeff.
Next week, we discuss possibilities in the FIBA World Cup, and probable line-ups for Spain.
For more on the Gilas campaign, read: