The Philippine National Basketball team, composed of some of the country’s top amateur prospects and bannered by naturalized player Marcus Douthit, recently came away with the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) championship after winning all five of their games in the tournament that was held in Singapore from April 27 to May 1.
Coached by Gilas Assistant Nash Racela, the group also known as the Gilas Cadets squad demolished their ASEAN neighbors by an average of 68.8 points, thus continuing their mastery over the region. Two-time UAAP MVP Bobby Ray Parks, formerly of NU, led the six-team tourney in scoring with 14.6 points per game.
They started their conquest with a 92-36 result over perennial SEABA contender Indonesia, followed up by an 87-point drubbing of a young Laotian team. They shackled Malaysia in their next game with the score of 104-42 before beating Brunei by 111 points. The Cadets’ final game against the home team Singapore became a virtual title match and would be their toughest battle, winning only by 26 points after pulling away in the second half.
In all of their games, most observers saw great discipline from the cadets. They stuck to the game plan on offense despite leading by a very large margin and continued to play suffocating defense until the game ended. Their teamwork and chemistry were also in display, as evidenced by their league-leading 25 dimes per outing. Five players averaged double figures in points while several other Filipinos led other statistical categories. Jiovani Jalalon topped the league in assists, while Kevin Ferrer made the most three-pointers at a tournament-leading percentage as well.
With their podium finish, the Philippines has now qualified for the upcoming FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China, which will run from September 23 to October 3. The tournament will serve as a qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. The first place finisher will automatically qualify for the tournament while the second and third place finishers will have to join another qualifying tournament.
The cadets, however, will be replaced by a yet to be built squad, which will begin their preparations at the end of the PBA Season. Instead, this incarnation of the national team will represent the country in the 2015 SEA games, also in Singapore, later this year.
The SEABA squad was composed of select amateurs currently playing in the top-flight collegiate leagues and the PBA D-League. Among those in the team are UAAP and NCAA MVPs Kiefer Ravena and Earl Thompson from Ateneo and Perpetual respectively. Joining them were Parks, Troy Rosario, and Glenn Khobuntin of NU, Ferrer of UST, Jalalon of Arellano University, Mark Belo and Russell Escoto of FEU, and Gilas mainstay Marcus Douthit.
La Salle’s own Almond Vosotros and Norbert Torres also played key roles in the championship run. Vosotros normed 10 points per outing while playing as one of the team’s primary sharpshooters. He finished second behind Ferrer in three point shooting percentage while placing in the top five in total threes made. Torres, on the other hand, made his mark on the defensive end as he finished among the league leaders in rebounding and steals.
The Cadets will be back in action in the 28th SEA Games back in Singapore next month to defend their medals. Joining them will be La Salle center Arnold van Opstal, who will take Escoto’s place as the team’s back-up big in the regional meet. Barring any major injury, the Gilas Cadets are still the unquestioned favorites to win it all this June.