The relationship between Filipinos and basketball is intricately woven into the fabric of Philippine culture. Basketball has become a source of pride and national identity for Filipinos, due to its roots in the country’s heritage and success on the international stage, especially during the 2014 World Cup, where a ragtag crew gave several world basketball powerhouses a run for their money.
However, the 2023 FIBA World Cup is fast approaching and Filipinos are eager to know who will don the blue and white of Gilas Pilipinas in the tournament. There is no shortage of talent in the Philippines, with new faces emerging every year and established veterans still in prime form.
Despite the deep well of skilled players the Philippines possesses, forming the national men’s basketball team—popularly known as the Gilas Pilipinas—is never an easy exercise. Between the various schedules of the players and the leagues they play in, not to mention the internal politics involved, it’s a miracle that a roster can even be formed at all.
That said, assuming that everyone is healthy and available, here are our picks for the Gilas Pilipinas roster for the 2023 FIBA World Cup:
Let’s start with the naturalized player of the team. While Pinoys’ hearts may long for Justin Brownlee to suit up as the Philippines’ naturalized player in the World Cup owing to his endearing passion for the country, its people, and its basketball fans, the upcoming tournament is a different animal with all the NBA-level talent suiting up for their respective national teams.
Instead, Jordan Clarkson seems to be the best choice for the national team from a pure basketball standpoint, having proven himself as an able scorer and playmaker in the NBA. The former NBA Sixth Man of the Year can get buckets at a moment’s notice, making him an invaluable asset to the Gilas Pilipinas team.
June Mar Fajardo
What the 6-foot-10 big man may lack in agility and mobility, he more than makes up with his size and niftiness inside in the shaded lane. June Mar Fajardo is a six-time PBA MVP who can bang with the best of them inside. He also has a reliable midrange jumper which will come in handy to draw opposing big men out of the lane.
FIBA basketball often boils down to two things—ball movement and outside shooting. The Cebuano can definitely help with the latter, being one of the top three-point shooters in the PBA. His defense is also solid, making him a two-way player on both ends of the floor.
7-foot-3 big men don’t come by often. Thus, it would be a shame to let Kai Sotto’s height and raw yet tantalizing skill set go to waste. Many see the 21-year-old as the future of Philippine basketball. After falling short of his NBA dream in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, Sotto should try to shine on the world stage.
Ramos brings with him size, toughness, athleticism, and tenacity on the defensive end of the floor. The B.League stalwart is a true blue-collar player who will do whatever it takes to get the job done.
The reigning PBA MVP is as fearless as they come. A combination of great passing, court vision, and rebounding prowess makes Thompson a valuable asset to the team’s backcourt. His ability to run plays and make quick decisions with the ball is something that can be put to good use in international play.
Carl Tamayo may be one of the youngest of this bunch but he has already shown his mettle in the collegiate and pro ranks. He is a long, versatile forward who can play both inside and outside. His recent championship conquest in the B.League may have taken his confidence to a whole new level.
One of the most experienced Gilas Pilipinas players, Japeth Aguilar has been part of several international tournaments since 2014. His size and athleticism make him a dangerous two-way player who can defend inside and stretch the floor on offense.
Bobby Ray Parks
Parks adds size to a Gilas backcourt expects to battle large-sized backcourts. No stranger to international competitions, owing to his experience with Gilas and the B.League, Parks has the ability to score off both the dribble and outside. He is also a capable playmaker who can find open teammates using his size against smaller opponents.
Standing 6-foot-5, Oftana is another tall wingman who can hit from deep or put the ball on the floor and drive it all the way to the rim. His defensive prowess will also be a great asset to the team, as he can guard multiple positions and use his length to disrupt passing lanes.
A deadeye shooter who shot 38 percent from three during his last stint for Kyoto in the B.League, Wright will be a reliable outside shooter for Gilas Pilipinas. He can also create his own shots off the dribble, making him a capable playmaker for a Gilas offense that likes to create openings for its shooters.
Erram adds much-needed size to the Gilas big man rotation. He is a mobile player who can defend both inside and out, as well as score do damage around the rim. His experience going up against international opponents gives him an edge over other contenders for a spot on the roster.