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The Short Corner: Harris, Gemao are more than their flashes of excellence


There is nothing quite like youth basketball, where the allure of potential more than makes up for the lack of refinement. After all, uncut gems still shine.

Gilas Pilipinas Youth finished seventh in the recently-concluded 2022 FIBA Under-16 Asian Championships, which was the country’s lowest finish in the event since its inception in 2009. But does this mean that the team (and thus, the players) were not good? Far from it. They were competitive against the two finalists in the tournament, and if a few things went their way, they would have been en route to the Under-17 World Cup. Don’t let the “low” finish fool you – these boys are very talented.

And that’s why we’re here: to talk about the players that stood out. The 12-man lineup was full of talented players who have the makings of good basketball players, but in the interest of time, let’s talk about the six players that could (and should) be getting offers from US college teams and/or make a major impact in the local leagues.

In the first of a two-part series, we’ll talk about Caelum Harris and Andy Gemao.

Caelum Harris: More than a Dunker

2022-FIBA-U16-Asian-Championships-Gilas-vs-Iran-Caelum-Harris The Short Corner: Harris, Gemao are more than their flashes of excellence Bandwagon Wire Basketball Gilas Pilipinas  - philippine sports news

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Before we start talking about him being more than a dunker, watch him dunking all over the competition. Insane amount of bounce on this guy:

When we think of Harris, it’s hard not to compare him to other 6’4”+ guys who can dunk. The highlights bring back memories of Kobe Paras’ highschool mixtape and Francis Lopez jumping all over mortals. But at a similar age, Harris seems to have more tools in his utility belt on the perimeter. He doesn’t have the body control that Lopez has nor does he have the size and length Kobe has, but he’s shown flashes that, quite frankly, I’ve yet to see from those two.

Give Harris space outside and keep help away and what do you get? Him attacking the rim, that’s what. His handles in non-tight situations are functional enough to give him something more to work with other than pure athletic superiority. With that same space, getting him rolling downhill is really hard to stop. Once he’s at the rim, he can punch it in (as seen above), use his strength and momentum to absorb contact, or finish with either hand.

The ball-handling is the most important part. With a player whose jumper is still in development, this means that he’s not helpless in the halfcourt. These skills allowed Harris to make 18 shots at the rim (second on the team):

The bad news? Harris doesn’t have too much wiggle nor does he have fantastic touch. Simply put, ball control isn’t exactly his forte. Strong leapers who aren’t gifted with top tier dexterity and/or coordination often end up being straight-line drivers. Against contests, they usually just end up relying on their explosiveness and momentum to knife into the defense and finish. This limits how much damage he can do at the rim in the halfcourt. As evidence, Harris only shot 62.1 percent at the rim despite his explosive athleticism and numerous dunks. For context, the team as a whole shot 61.3percent at the rim, meaning he was slightly above average. The vert can only do so much. Take him a bit farther from the rim, and the percentage plummets. He was 2-for-7 (28.6 percent) from the short midrange or floater range:

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His handles often lose their potency when there’s a lack of space. Double teams, digs, and all manners of help can cause him to turn the ball over, or force him to pick the ball up and end his attack prematurely. It is unclear if this is because Harris is naturally not a good ball-handler, or because he just has not had enough repetitions dribbling in games. We’d lean slightly towards the second option given the lack of ball-handling reps in the halfcourt while playing in the AAU (as detailed here:).

There’s the spin move, too. It feels like it’s been drilled into him to resort to this move as a counter. Sometimes it works, but there is an overreliance on it to the point that Harris goes to the spin even when the situation doesn’t call for it. After spinning, Harris often picks the ball up, and he ends up in less-than-ideal situations that force turnovers. The bulk of his team-leading 3.8 turnovers per game came from these ball handling errors:

Harris has shown some flashes of being able to shoot jumpers, making mid-range jumpers off the dribble and against tough contests. But he’s far from a shooter; he shot 4-for-12 (33.3 percent) from midrange and 1-for-11 (9.1 percent) from beyond the arc. There’s promise in his shooting touch, though, as he went 11-for-13 (84.6 percent) from the line.

There are nitpicks in his form – the angle of his shooting hand is not optimal, there is lower body rotation, and the landings are not great – but with enough training, Harris could overcome all these. He may never become a bonafide shooter, but there’s a good chance he won’t be a guy you would sag off of in the future:

The real gem here: Harris has the chance to be a really good playmaker in the future. For one, he’s a practitioner of the one-hand overhead skip pass to the corner. This is essential in nearly every elite playmaker’s repertory. He may have only averaged 2.7 assists per game, but the number of advantages he created by his passing far exceeds that.

Go to 0:36 on the video below. Look at his head and look at where the defense is looking. No one even thinks he’s firing that pass to the corner. Misdirecting the defense with your eyes is a terrific skill for a pro player, much less for a 17-year-old. His live dribble passing is what separates him from the other athletic wings we’ve had before. If done right, he could be a 6’5 play initiator with an elite vertical leap.

This is also why it would probably be more beneficial for him to play in the Philippines under a coach or system that would allow him to refine his playmaking. With tougher competition (and more talented guards) abroad, win-now coaches have less of an incentive to give him the on-ball reps that he would need for this skill to flourish. A UAAP team should promise him some actual point guard minutes and hope for the best:

Defensively, Harris was one of the weirdest guys on the team. He occasionally showcased a wild intersection of lack of effort, inattentiveness, and below-average technique. When he’s not locked in, the off-ball defense was shockingly subpar, to say the least.

He also lacked discipline. He’s a good shot-blocker, but Harris is not very picky with his contests. He would jump for the slightest hint of a shot, which caused breakdowns on defense. Learning when to go all out on his contests would make him a really good defensive player instantly:

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On the flipside, when he’s engaged, he’s disruptive. He’s decently strong and long which, when combined with his leaping, makes him a good post defender. His foot speed and length allow him to make possession-saving rotations that alter shots to force misses or deter shots completely. His arms and hand-eye coordination allowed him to come up with a steal per game. If he cleans up a bit on this end, he’ll be a sight to behold on both ends of the floor:

The wildest thing about Harris’ defense is the blocks. While he does tend to go for too many blocks on the perimeter, being able to do so as commonly as he does requires a great deal of anticipation or reaction time and tremendous hand-eye coordination that allows him to go for the ball after having milliseconds to see its trajectory.

He was also probably the best rim protector on the team and he averaged 1.5 blocks per game. The height, length, leaping ability, timing, and hand-eye coordination show great signs of his potential to be a highly impactful player on the defensive end – provided that the unsavory parts of his defense are trained out of him:

Harris is primed to be a cornerstone of Gilas in the future, and for good reason. At best, we can hope that he ends up becoming a primary with a decent jumper and great defensive impact at the Asian level. Realistically, we can expect him to be a very athletic wing that can operate as a secondary ball-handler and play various roles on defense at a good level. The highflying forays are loud and attention-grabbing, but good players aren’t made on dunks alone. It’s a good thing there’s a lot more to Harris than that; he is, almost unquestionably, the best long term prospect on this team.

Andy Gemao: Unreal Flashes

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Apl Mcandrei “Andy” Gemao caught a bit of Internet notoriety from clips of him detonating on the rim. That type of athleticism from a Filipino teenager is captivating, if not mind-boggling. But like the guy we discussed before him, he’s more than the dunks; Gemao just turned 16 last June 26, and he’s around a year younger than his teammates. Being able to do some of the things he showed at that age really highlights the insane potential this ninth-grader possesses.

He only played 9.4 minutes per game, but he somehow grabbed 2.2 offensive rebounds per game and was a literal rebound away from sharing the team lead. This indicates two things: spatial awareness and insane hops. He tracks the ball really well and positions himself in a way that would allow him to get a rebound despite only standing 6’0 tall:

In his somewhat limited minutes, Gemao showcased really wild shotmaking and scoring flashes, including a performance where he put up a ridiculous seven points in just 2.8 minutes against Iran. He showcased the ability to hang in the air and contort himself to finish at the rim. He converted on seven of his nine attempts at the rim for a 77.8 field goal percentage, the highest on the team. His handles seemed great too, as he was able to keep his dribble alive as he broke his man one-on-one or sliced through defenses.

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The shooting numbers don’t look great, but the small sample size may not be truly reflective of his shooting ability. A good number of his triples were rim-outs that could have just as easily gone in, and Gemao only took seven free throws. At the very least, he showed a ton of confidence in his shot:

He was a terrific connective passer for the team and averaged the third-most (after Jared Bahay and Kris Porter) on a per-minute basis. Gemao showed signs of being able to read the defense well in transition and find the openings that can be abused.

Watch the second pass in the clip below. As soon as he catches the ball, Gemao makes exactly the right type of delivery needed to get the ball to his teammate while taking into consideration the height and reach of the defender. His live-dribble passing does need some work, as he has to end his handle before he’s able to rifle a pass in which wastes a bit of time. Lastly, just watch the final pass in the reel. That boy nice:

There’s one thing that holds him back from harvesting souls on offense: Gemao seems to struggle balancing scoring and passing. Specifically, it seems like he has a hard time processing the rest of the floor while he tries to create offense for himself. It feels like the more he dribbles, the more tunnel vision sets in. It also doesn’t help that he’s not a particularly great live dribble passer. Reads can tend to be slow, which causes passing lanes to fizzle out. He can miss particularly obvious open passes when he makes his move, such as when he missed Alexander Konov in the second clip of the next reel in favor of a pull-up jumper (he missed Konov a lot in this reel, to be honest).

The best players are those who can use their scoring to improve their playmaking and use the threat of the pass to improve their scoring. Ideally, scoring and playmaking complement each other and combine to make the player that much more dangerous:

Somewhat expected from a player that is as young and toolsy as he is, Gemao is quite raw on the defensive end. He’s not the most technically sound defender and can overplay his man without reason, open his hips earlier than he should, or be caught red-handed in bad positioning. It’s never too early to start correcting things before they become bad habits:

Gemao is not all bad on defense. His length and athleticism can make up for some of the technical issues he has. He has good quick hands-on defense, allowing him to poke balls loose or even get a piece of a shot. With his physical profile, there’s so much room for improvement and a lot of good to build upon:

Gemao is another guy whose top-end outcome would be a primary. It’s never too early to drill every possible pick-and-roll read into him. The scoring potential he displayed in less than 60 minutes of total court time is enough to make people believe that he could be very special. Even if the live dribble passing doesn’t come around, the scoring ability coupled with his athleticism is enough for him to make a huge splash in Philippine basketball.

Written By

Does hoops math and watches too much game film. Talks a lot on Twitter (@_alba__)


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