Chot opts for strong backcourt

Chot opts for strong backcourt

TAIPEI – Terrence Romeo makes his much-awaited comeback and once again forms a deadly backcourt tandem with Jayson Castro as Gilas Pilipinas faces off with Chinese Taipei in a rematch in the first round of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers at the Taipei Heping Basketball Gymnasium here tonight.

Jio Jalalon will be the third guard as coach Chot Reyes brings back the backcourt rotation Gilas used in a dominant run in the last SEABA Championship and in its seventh-place finish in the last FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon.

Gilas will surely have the edge on the frontcourt with Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar and Troy Rosario while Calvin Abueva, RR Pogoy, Allein Malicsi, Gabe Norwood and Matthew Wright are those tapped to match the Taiwanese’ vaunted firepower on wing spots.

Reyes announced his final 12 for their last “away” game in the opening round of the WC eliminator during the team lunch yesterday. Relegated as reserves are Carl Bryan Cruz, Baser Amer and Troy Rike.

Gilas and Chinese Taipei clash at 7 p.m. with the Nationals (3-1) looking to repeat their 90-83 victory at home last November to improve the record they’re carrying over into the next round. The Taiwanese (1-3), meanwhile, eye revenge in their hope to stay ahead of the Japanese (0-4) in their battle for the last second round spot from Group B.

The Gilas bench chieftain expressed satisfaction on the progress they gained in their four-day training here.

“You can see mentally that they’re a lot more attuned with what we’re trying to do. Admittedly, there are still a few things we need to work on, but overall I’m satisfied with the way we’re progressing,” said Reyes in an ESPN5 report.

“I like what I saw from the scrimmages. The flow is not as smooth as we want it to be, that’s leading to some of the turnovers. But otherwise, I like the energy and engagement. Hopefully that’s enough to beat a very determined Taipei side,” Reyes added.

Reyes will miss Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Alas but is welcoming back Romeo, Gilas’ top gun in the 2017 FIBA Asia.

Romeo is making his first appearance in the FIBAWC 2019 qualifiers, having missed the first two windows due to an injury.

“I’m happy to be back and I can’t wait to once again play with my Gilas brothers,” said Romeo.

In the Beirut FIBA Asia, Romeo shone brightest for the team with 17.8 points a game, going with his other averages of 3.0 assists and 1.7 rebounds.

Then there’s Castro who averaged 16.0 points, 4.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds as Gilas’ lead force in their first four games in this WC eliminator.

Blatche and Fajardo could well be big problems for the Taiwanese. They both averaged 11.3 points in Gilas’ first four games.