The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas on Saturday released the pools for the men's and women's 5x5 and men's and women's 3x3 teams for the basketball competition of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games to be hosted by Phnom Penh, Cambodia in May.
To recap, the Philippines won the gold medal in women's 5x5, the silver in the men's 5x5 and the bronze in the men's 3x3 events. That men's 5x5 silver was particularly stinging, as it was the first time in 33 years that the country failed to bring home the gold medal in that event.
Now, the SBP is making sure that the gold returns to Manila with a pool composed of some of the very best players in the PBA, a returning Gilas Youth big man, and a few crack collegiate stars. Only two players from that ill-fated team that fell short in Hanoi, Vietnam last time out -- June Mar Fajardo and RR Pogoy -- are in the 28-man pool.
To summarize, here are the men's 5x5 players grouped according to position:
Bigs - Justin Brownlee, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Mason Francis Amos, Benjamin Phillips III, Ariel John Edu, Michael Phillips, Christian Standhardinger, Raymond Almazan, Karl Kevin Quiambao, and John Paul Erram.
Wings - Marcio Lassiter, Brandon Rosser, Calvin John Oftana, Jamie Malonzo, Arvin Tolentino, and Jeremiah Gray.
Guards - CJ Perez, Chris Ross, Earl Scottie Thompson, Stanley Pringle, Jr., Roger Pogoy, Michael Williams, Chris Newsome, Norman Aaron Black, Kevin Louie Alas, Deschon Winston and Jerom Lastimosa.
Here are some quick thoughts on what to make of the pool:
No B.League guys
Chot Reyes had previously said that he wouldn't tap players based in Japan for the SEA Games, and he stuck to his word.
That leaves out Kai Sotto, the Ravena brothers, Carl Tamayo, Dwight Ramos, Jordan Heading and Ray Parks.
It would have been fun to see Brownlee and Sotto team up in the front court, or Parks running the break with Pringle and Williams, but with the B.League season running until early May, it would have been a logistical challenge to bring the guys in Japan over.
Unlike for FIBA windows, the B.League certainly won't halt play for the SEA Games, so getting permission from the club teams would have been very difficult.
By limiting the pool to Manila-based players, with the exception of Edu, practices can start sooner.
Laxer eligibility rules means more depth
In Hanoi last year, there seemed to be some confusion on the part of the SBP with regard to player eligibility.
They used Mo Tautuaa as a naturalized player and didn't bring in players who weren't FIBA eligible, thereby shrinking the talent pool considerably. Yet other countries such as Thailand and Vietnam liberally used players who also weren't FIBA eligible.
Was it an oversight? A miscommunication between the SBP and the organizers? We'll never truly know anymore. But judging from this pool, the 2023 hosts are sticking with the previous eligibility rules which state that a passport is good enough to play.
That's why we see the Phillips brothers, Rosser, Gray, Pringle, Williams and Ross in the roster and why there's more depth at every position compared to last year.
The guard pool alone looks insane. The two youngsters -- Winston and Lastimosa -- appear to be the odd men out here, but everyone else has a strong case for inclusion. In the vernacular, walang tapon.
Seriously, who would you drop among Perez, Ross, Thompson, Pogoy, Williams, Pringle and Newsome? Even Alas and Black have been playing very well of late.
Also, good luck scoring against a frontline rotation of Brownlee, Fajardo, Aguilar and Standhardinger. JMF and Japeth may be injured right now, but if they make it back in time, they'll help form perhaps the most potent big man rotation in SEA Games history.
Welcome back, AJ
For a while there, everyone thought the SBP had forgotten about AJ Edu.
You remember him, right? Six-foot-eleven Gilas Youth center who was supposed to form the frontline of the future with Kai Sotto?
Two knee injuries have derailed his playing career, and he's been playing limited minutes in the US NCAA for the University of Toledo Rockets for the past few years. But the fact that he has still been playing competitively is a good sign, and it will be interesting to see what he will bring to the table.
Could this move also be paving the way for his possible inclusion in Gilas' World Cup pool? Edu has always had the potential to be a solid rim protector and rebounder, and hopefully he gets his chance to play in Phnom Penh.