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Where are Blatche, Romeo?

KAZAKHSTAN has become our suki (whipping boy) that's why I'm confident we will beat the Kazakhs again on November 30 at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.

It is Iran that I'm worried about the most.

Like many of our non-basketball-loving countries many years back, Iran has enormously improved since it started to treat the sport seriously starting some two decade or so ago.

Back in 1975, when Iran played here for the Asian Youth Championship, its players were like kindergartens clumsily playing against the region's best.

I covered that when I was a Bulletin sportswriter and, if memory serves, our team then led by Bogs Adornado, Yoyong Martirez and Manny Paner, among others, ripped the Iranians into shreds en route to a winning margin of not less than 50 points.

And Iran was then already giant-laden, its players virtually all 6-footers from the point guard up to the center.

Obviously, Iran would soon finally recognize its built-in edge in height that's why, through the years, it has invested so much on the game with an eye on its man-mountains. Naturally.

Today, Iran has become a basketball power in the region that we just couldn't beat easily anymore.

In our 20-man pool are listed virtual giants, too. Not just guys nearing 7 feet but others who are actually standing 7 feet and beyond.

Both Greg Slaughter and Kai Sotto are 7-foot-1s. Ceiling-wise, the duo is tailor-fit to man the Philippine slot.

But that's easier said than done.

Whether we like it or not, Slaughter is still recovering from a leg injury. We can only hope that he will be 100 percent by the time the next Fiba World Cup window is played on November 30.

But while Slaughter no doubt has the height, his quickness-let alone his shiftiness-remains suspect as usual.

Because he is a bit slow-I just pray and hope he'd overcome that soonest-his counterparts could usually run rings around him.

That's where the likes of June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar and JP Erram are badly needed to lend support to Slaughter in the middle.

Coach Yeng Guiao is fortunate to have the 6-foot-10 Fajardo, 6-foot-9 Aguilar and 6-foot-8 Erram as pillars for Gilas Pilipinas, as all three are shoo-ins for the team.

They are our version of 'The Triple Towers,' with Slaughter acting out the role as, hopefully, 'Gregzilla' in our mission to topple Kazakhstan and Iran (December 3).

My bets, aside from Slaughter, Fajardo, Aguilar and Erram, to make it to the 12-man Gilas squad are Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos, Christian Standhardinger, Stanley Pringle, Matthew Wright, Paul Lee and Gabe Norwood.

I didn't include Sotto as his 7-foot-1 ceiling is simply not enough to make a difference once the going got rough.

Now, if we want to feed Sotto with experience, go ahead, draft him. But if we want Gilas to have a fighting chance, make every player matter every step of the way.

Definitely, Sotto, at 16, is still a project in the making. Not a war material. N'yet.

Now, this is the bigger puzzle: Why were 7-foot-1 Andray Blatche and spitfire Terrence Romeo not in the pool?

My probe on the matter has just begun.

THAT'S IT Manny Pacquiao did the country proud once more with the brilliant speech he delivered as guest of honor and speaker at the Student Union Council ceremonies at the prestigious Oxford University in London recently. His speechwriter sure did his homework. He deserves a bonus. Cheers!
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Nov 14, 2018
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