Mystery surrounds this batch of SMART Gilas Pilipinas, as only two of the 12-man lineup have experienced what it’s like playing in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
But with this, Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao is banking on this unfamiliarity as a weapon against Group D leaders Iran, fondly known as Team Melli.
The game takes place at 8:30pm (Manila time) at the Azady Gym in Tehran, Iran.
Out of the 12-man lineup, only three players from Gilas have faced Iran – namely Gabe Norwood, Asi Taulava, and Marcio Lassiter.
Just three years ago, Norwood, Taulava, and the brave Gilas batch of 2015 faced off against Iran in the second round of the Asia Cup in Changsha, China. The Philippines defeated Iran back then, 87-73 – Gilas’ last win over Iran.
On the other hand, Marcio Lassiter’s last date with the Iranians took place back in 2011.
With a lineup that is new, all stats are thrown out the window for Gilas Pilipinas, who has only lost one road game so far in the Asian Qualifiers.
However, Iran has yet to lose at home – winning by an average margin of 22.3 points per game on its home floor.
During Chot Reyes’ time in Gilas, the Philippines held a plus-11 margin on the road.
Without 7-footer Greg Slaughter, Gilas’ frontline will be manned by 6-foot-9 Asi Taulava, 6-foot-8 Christian Standhardinger, 6-foot-8 Raymond Almazan, 6-foot-8 JP Erram, and 6-foot-7 Ian Sangalang.
In comparison, Iran has an average height of 6-foot-6 with Asian legend Hamed Haddadi manning the paint. He stands at 7-foot-2.
Iran’s power forward Rouzbeh Arghavan is a 7-footer as well.
Gilas’ biggest advantage is its more potent bench, as Iran relies heavily on its starting five. So far, Iran’s second and third stringers only average 25.7 points per game.
SMART Gilas Pilipinas has received a much-needed breath of fresh air thanks to a new coach and a fresh batch of players. But as veteran as the Philippine side will be, the familiarity of the Iranians will be hard to combat.
But as Guiao said, “Marami ang huhulaan nila sa atin. Tayo, mas kaunti hinuhulaan natin sa kanila. That is our advantage.”