Last Monday, the Gilas Cadets won against Indonesia to take home the gold medal in the men’s basketball tournament of the 2015 SEA Games.
In many ways, we expected them to win. Despite that scary victory over Thailand when they played their worst game all tournament, we knew they were good enough to compete against the best in Southeast Asia. The Philippines won gold, end of story.
Now, the hard part.
Since the Philippines is obsessed with basketball, we are also equally obsessed in always looking two to three years ahead. We project a high school player if he’ll do well in college and we then assess if he can play in the pros a few years later. The same thing applies here for Gilas. They may be young gentlemen (save for Marcus Douthit), but in time, they will take the mantle of the next Gilas squad.
In a perfect world where none of them will be injured and none of them will be a bust in the pros, we can all expect them to play for the Philippines in the future.
Leading this group of young cadets is Ateneo’s Kiefer Ravena.
If you still have any doubts on whether or not he can play beyond the collegiate level, then there’s something you’re not seeing.
You probably didn’t see how he transformed into a legitimate playmaker as he became Gilas’ best passer and decision-maker. For Ateneo last year, he had the ball a lot on isolation plays and you could argue he played a lot of hero ball for the Blue Eagles. As he played point guard for the Gilas Cadets, he showed everyone just how versatile he is. Even as he was partnered with DLSU’s Almond Vosotros, Ravena still remained point, finding the sweet shooting guard for those dagger three’s.
Kiefer’s point guard game was an absolute treat to watch. But when the going got tough especially in the game against Thailand, he still proved that he’s one of the best amateur ball players out there today. That in-your-face three-pointer with under a minute left had “Kiefer Ravena” written all over it. He waved off the screen by Troy Rosario, had his man on an island, unleashed a dagger jumper, and had the smirk on his face afterwards as if to say “That’s right, I shot that.”
Ravena’s game is ready not only for the professional level, but it’s safe to say also for the big leagues in international competition. He’s deceptively fast at the guard position and he also has that James Harden-like move to the paint to fish for fouls. In a few years’ time, as he develops better shooting and more strength, he’ll be a perfect fit for any Gilas squad that the Philippines will come up with.
Aside from Ravena, honorable mentions for best players in the tournament will have to go to Troy Rosario, Mac Belo, and Almond Vosotros. The uber power frontcourt of Rosario and Belo is a nightmare for any opposing team. Both can rebound, defend, shoot from the foul line, and knock down a three every now and then. It was impressive to see the both of them have shining moments all throughout the tournament, especially in the last two games.
Almond Vosotros can be one of those heat check guys for Gilas. For now, I’m not too worried that he took some hurried or ill-advised shots. What I like about him is that he has absolutely no fear shooting the ball. Consistency and form can be taught, but courage? That stuff has got to come from within and Vosotros has that in him.
As a whole, the Gilas team played great. For now, they’re called Gilas cadets – a team composed of the top amateur basketball players in the country. For now, they still have other things to worry about, like getting into the PBA or leading their school to a championship. For now, they’re young, talented, and currently the people we are entrusting the future of Filipino basketball with.
Good thing they’re up for the challenge.