GILAS PILIPINAS: PROFILING THE GREATEST BALLERS OF THE DECADE
Waving one’s country flag high enough with the international crowd in the lights is a hell dream of any player. With basketball emerging as the top sport in the country, we have seen a fair share of great athletes come and go. Throughout the decades, Filipinos have witnessed greats who not only dominated the international scene but also showed puso representing the 108 million Filipinos.
Gilas have brought the best cager from all corners of the country. Filipinos have seen aggressive bruisers, sharpshooting snipers, defensive dominant centers, crafty forwards, multiple scoring machine players, and all-around inhumane athletes. It proved to be that Filipinos shine in vicarious skills and that basketball is not just a game of one but of so much more—of talent, play style, skill, and athleticism.
Now, let us recall the greatest Gilas Pilipinas players who serve as the manifesto of true Filipino athletes and relive their actions representing the country on the hardcourt.
Jayson Castro, who was considered the most reliable point guard in the Philippines men’s national basketball team, has made names in the international scene snatching the Asian Mythical Five twice and earning the honor in the 2013 and 2015 stagings of the FIBA Asia. He built a reputation as one of Asia’s top point guards which helped the country win 2nd place in both competitions.
Castro, well-known as “The Blur”, earned a Mythical Five spot in the 2015 Jones Cup after he helped the squad overrun a 2nd finish against the formidable Iran, as well as, ended the SEA Games with a gold medal finish in 2007. He was also part of the squad’s roster in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Ranidel de Ocampo
Ranidel de Ocampo, who was a four times NCAA Most Valuable Player and three times PBA MVP, has shown Gilas that he is always up to deliver points for the squad.
He became part of the Gilas Pilipinas team that brought Filipino pride to the core as it defeated rival-country South Korea in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship and earned a ticket to compete in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
De Ocampo was the 4th leading scorer of Gilas in the 2013 FIBA Asia. He was also the team’s top scorer in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup and was the 5th leading scorer in the 2014 FIBA World Cup and the 2015 FIBA Asia.
Gabriel Daniel Norwood, also known as the “Mr. President”, was a defensive anchor, the old guard, and the remnant of several eras for the national team for over 10 years. It was July 28, 2007, the date when Norwood had the chance to put on a Team Philippines jersey. He was indeed remembered for his contribution to the process and not the result of his final stint.
The 6-foot-6 dreaded defender was applauded by his ariel dunks and reliable jump shots. In the FIBA World Cup 2014, conducted in Seville Spain, Norwood made marks in Philippine basketball by making two memorable dunks against Argentina stalwarts Luis Scola and Nestor Mata. The in-your-face slam over the outstretched arms of Argentinian legend Luis Scola will forever be etched in FIBA history.
He was then named as the team captain of Gilas’ campaign in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Jimmy Alapag, famous by its moniker “The Mighty Mouse” and “The Captain”, ascended as one of the PBA’s 40 Greatest Players before being the longest-tenured Gilas captain highlighted by a FIBA World Cup stint in 2014.
Alapag is known for his lethal 3-pointers from way beyond the arc, excellent passing, playmaking ability, and intelligent decision making in the game.
He was the “hero” that gave the country its first-ever World Cup victory in over 40 years who logged in the game’s final free throws that sealed the historic victory for Gilas Pilipinas, one that many Filipinos still in goosebumps to watch over.
June Mar Fajardo
The five-time PBA MVP awardee was the Phillippine’s savior during the match against Senegal 2014 FIBA World Cup stint. During that time, Fajardo was not noticeable since there was the gigantic Andray Blatche, the first bona fide NBA-level player to play for Gilas ever.
In that game, after a period of Blatche’s disqualification, Fajardo came into the rescue finishing a very crucial 15 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, and had a +20 efficiency record, per FIBA.
Alongside Jimmy Alapag, they were the remarkable players who gave the Philippines its first historic win in the World Cup in 40 years.
LA Tenorio, also known by his moniker “The Lieutenant ”, has become the lead playmaker of the squad which he became part of the Philippine Men’s National Team only in 2012.
Tenorio showed supremacy in Gilas 2.0’s when he replaced the main floor general Sol Mercado. During that time he upped his game big time, leading Gilas all the way to the Jones Cup title – the first-ever Philippine team to experience since the Centennial Team nabbed the title in 1998.
Tenorio was eventually awarded the Most Valuable Player title of the Jones Cup, scoring 8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game.
Perez made an impression in his first FIBA stint way back in 2016 at the FIBA Asia Challenge as a part of the Cadets squad. Although he was not certainly a featured player back then with only 12.8 minutes per game, he had his prime moments. Despite the little amount of playing time, Perez garnered a healthy 9.5 points and 1.8 steals on average.
Fast forward to 2019, Perez became part of the Gilas’ stint in the 2019 FIBA World Cup where he averaged 16.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game despite losing to Angola. This made a key evidence of why Perez should be a key fixture for future Gilas squad heading into the future.
The 6-foot-11 Andray Blatche, the former US NBA player who was granted Filipino citizenship to play for Gilas Pilipinas, has provided the Filipinos something that is not ordinary—a big guy with a big body that can shoot the three, run the floor, and block shots.
In five games at the World Cup, he averaged 21.2 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game. With an 18-point, 14-rebound performance, Blatche helped the Philippines to their first World Cup win in 40 years, defeating Senegal 81–79 in overtime.
The 27-year-old Ravena has the most national team appearances which have been a fixture in FIBA tournaments since 2009 despite being the second-youngest player among the pros included in the training camp in Laguna.
Ravena became part of the 2009 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship where they finished 4th place. He also made an appearance at the 2010 FIBA Asia Under-18 Championship where they finished 5th place. Then, played on the 2010 SEABA Under-18 Championship Team wherein they won the gold medal against Malaysia.
Ravena was named as the team captain of the Gilas Cadets in 2015 that competed in the 2015 SEABA Championship in Singapore wherein they won the gold medal. Then eventually played at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games wherein they managed the gold medal against Indonesia.
Ravena became the only second Filipino basketball player to win three straight SEA Games gold medals in basketball following Rommel Adducul did the trick in 1997, 1999, and 2001.
A promising player of the all-cadet roster for the FIBA Asia Cup, Dwight Ramos, is an incoming Ateneo player. He flaunted a flawless performance in his Gilas Pilipinas Men debut as the national team drubbed Thailand, which ended with a whopping 32-point advantage.
Ramos’ performance already etched to many Filipinos as he led the Gilas with 20 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting to go with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals as the Philippines dominated after a close opening quarter.
As a bright future awaits Philippine basketball, this just shows that the country is indeed in good hands with our new generation athletes.
Filipino greatness is still emerging in the veins of our promising players. The historic moments featuring Filipinos in Gilas uniform will forever be etched in the country’s memories. Filipinos do not only see basketball stalwarts as a piece of history but a light that shines to the young prospects inspiring them to take the path of every athlete’s dream—wearing the flag on one’s jersey and screaming ‘puso’!