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Can Gilas win one?

Can Gilas Pilipinas uplift the masses of basketball-crazed Filipinos in this month's 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup by winning at least a game?

As much as armchair basketball pundits like me contend that the answer is on the makeup of the team, the path to victory actually lies in Gilas' classification matches.

Gilas Pilipinas FIBA PHOTO

The Philippines has been assigned to Group A together with Italy, Dominican Republic, and Angola.

Of the four, Italy is the top team in the group based on the latest FIBA rankings at No. 10 and boasts of current Utah Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio and former NBA players Nico Mannion and Nicolo Melli.

Last season—his rookie year in the Association—the 6'7″ Fontecchio saw action in 52 games for the Jazz and averaged 6.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 14.7 minutes per contest.

Current Washington Wizard Danilo Gallinari, the most decorated Italian player in recent years, has begged off from this year's World Cup due to injury. Gilas will square off against Italy on Aug. 29.

The Dominican Republic, at No. 23 in the most recent FIBA rankings, is also definitely no pushover as they are led by bonafide NBA superstar Karl-Anthony Towns.

The 7'0″ center/forward will suit up for the Dominican Republic for the first time since he was 16 years old.

Despite a down year where he missed 53 games due to injury, the 2016 NBA Rookie of the Year and three-time NBA All-Star still averaged 20.8 points and 8.1 rebounds last season.

Aside from KAT, who in the offseason said he will be remembered for changing the game, the DR team will also field bonafide NBA player Chris Duarte and perhaps NBA greybeard Al Horford. Incoming Golden State Warriors sophomore Lester Quiñones is also on the roster.

Gilas will make its 2023 FIBA World Cup debut against Dominican Republic on Aug. 25.

Angola, which is one rung down the Philippines' ranking in FIBA at 41, currently has one NBA player in its roster—Bruno Fernando of the Atlanta Hawks.

This past season, the burly 6'10″ center appeared in 39 games this season for the Hawks and Houston Rockets, averaging 3.9 points and 3.5 rebounds in limited action (per NBA.com).

Aside from Fernando, the Southern African nation also has Basketball Africa League veterans like Childe Dundao, Gerson Domingos, and Gerson Goncalves. The latter was the MVP of the 2019 Angolan League. The hosts will take on Angola on Aug. 27.

Looking at the Philippines' classification matches, it looks like Gilas' best bet in getting a W in the 2023 FIBA World Cup is against Angola.

Secondary to the teams Gilas will be facing in the upcoming FIBA showcase, the roster makeup of head coach Chot Reyes also matters when getting that all-import victory in the basketball world stage.

Gilas' current 21-player pool is headed by Utah Jazz guard and former NBA 6th Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson.

The sharpshooter had a career season with the Jazz last year averaging a career-high in points (20.8 ppg) and assists (4.4 apg).

While Clarkson should be the focal point of Gilas' offense, NBA.com said hoops fans should also keep an eye out for Kai Sotto.

The 7-foot-3 21-year-old wunderkind, who is the country's best bet for a full-blooded Pinoy to finally crack the NBA, averaged 13.3 ppg and 9.3 rpg in four qualifying games for Gilas. The Hiroshima Dragonflies center also played in the Summer League as a member of the Orlando Magic.

Also part of the extensive Gilas pool are Rhenz Abando, Japeth Aguilar, Justin Brownlee, A.J. Edu, Poy Erram, June Mar Fajardo, Jordan Heading, Ange Kouame, Jamie Malonzo, Chris Newsome, Calvin Oftana, Bobby Ray Parks Jr., C.J. Perez, Roger Ray Pagoy, Dwight Ramos, Kiefer Ravena, Thirdy Ravena, Kai Sotto, Carl Tamayo, and Scottie Thompson.

Short of a last-second decision from the power-that-be on FIBA, it looks like Brownlee is out for the 2023 FIBA World Cup as Clarkson is already considered the naturalized player for Gilas.

It's a pity because with a Clarkson/Brownlee tandem leading Gilas, the Philippines could've a puncher's chance in beating Dominican Republic in the group stage, out of the elimination phase, and advance to the knockout round of the tourney.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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