With less than a week to go before the FIBA Asia Championship, Philippine national men’s basketball coach Chot Reyes is keeping his cards close to his chest.
He piloted the Gilas Pilipinas national squad to a 92-89 victory on Friday against a tall and athletic Kazakhstan side, but fiddled around with his lineups to keep other teams from gauging the full strength of his team.
“Kailangan mayroon pa rin tayong tinatago,” said Reyes.
He played around with the minutes of his men, never letting anyone spend too much time on the floor. Jayson Castro, his best performer for the evening, scored 20 points but saw just 18 minutes of playing time.
Reyes also fielded in unconventional lineups, especially in the second half as the game remained close. In the third quarter, he took out all of his centers, instead fielding in three power forwards — Ranidel De Ocampo, Marc Pingris, and Japeth Aguilar — to form his frontline.
Late in the period, Reyes also played around with going extremely small, playing point guards Castro and Alapag together. That resulted in good things for the Philippine team, which went on a 12-2 run to close the third quarter, with the two Talk ‘N Text guards scoring all of the Philippines’ points during that stretch.
In the fourth period, Reyes took out all his point guards, going big in the backcourt with the 6-foot-5 Gabe Norwood taking the primary ballhandler duties while flanked by Gary David and Larry Fonacier. Late in the game, Reyes also experimented with a twin tower combination featuring Marcus Douthit and June Mar Fajardo, to less successful results.
Showing just how willing the coach was to play around with the lineups, Reyes fielded in Beau Belga late in the game, after fans began chanting the burly center’s name — even though the game was still in the balance. Belga set a couple of hard picks on Kazakhstan opponents, to the delight of Filipino fans at the Big Dome.
Reyes expressed confidence about the team as it gears up for the FIBA Asia Championship.
“We’ll take Sunday off, that’s going to be our last break before FIBA Asia,” said Reyes. “From hereon in its mostly mental.”