Ever since Gilas Pilipinas’ daily practices commenced a week ago, the team usually starts their sessions with basic sets — particularly cone drills and a few routines exercising the fundamentals of the dribble-drive motion offense.
The players utilize both ends of the court effectively. On one side are all the guards and wingmen combined, pulling off drive-and-kick sets plus hitting shots — either from beyond the arc or from near the hoop — with ease. And on the other side of the floor are a handful of big men. The Nationals have a guard-heavy composition, so seeing such a small number of cagers playing either the four or five spots is inevitable.
Of course, those bigs are also running drills. But their routines involve down-the-low-block action, aside from numerous drives to the basket, and either outside passes or pocket dishes.
And another facet that the frontline are working on are their shooting from beyond the arc.
For years, the game of basketball has evolved. In this day and age, centers and power forwards (especially on the world stage) are not just post specialists — they can also stretch the floor and hit shots from the perimeter and beyond the arc.
Given the circumstances, that is one of the many challenges Gilas head coach Chot Reyes imposed on his young bigs — shoot from distance on a consistent basis.
“[I want them to have] The ability to shoot the three consistently,” said the 53-year-old mentor moments after Gilas’ hour-and-ten-minute session Wednesday night at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City.
“We know Troy [Rosario] can hit that. We’re challenging Raymond and Norbert to consistently do that. Hopefully we’ll get there,” added Reyes, in provocation of Raymond Almazan and Norbert Torres.
For the 6-foot-6 Torres, the shift won’t be as drastic as one thinks, as he is a career 34.1 percent three-point shooter in the PBA. Moreover, during his early years with the De La Salle University Green Archers, he had been given the freedom to shoot from long range by former coaches Dindo Pumaren and Gee Abanilla.
“I’m just practicing. I practice everyday yung three-point shooting, and whichever workouts he wants us to do,” said the sophomore who plays for the Phoenix Fuel Masters.
“But that’s not enough, you know. We still have to get on our own. Get up extra shots.”
Almazan is not known to have the same touch from range, however. A career 21.8 percent three-point shooter, he has made strides from that zone this season — going 6-for-11 from downtown in 10 games played.
“It’s a big challenge for me kasi yun yung ini-improve ko since sumali ako ng PBA,” said Rain or Shine’s Almazan on the other hand.
“Nangyayari naman yun every practice so bakit ka matatakot na tumira sa labas kung alam mong pinapractice mo every day? Pinapractice ko naman siya every day, kaya yung kumpiyansa tumira sa labas mataas.”
Reyes’ order to them is not just the real challenge, though. Aside from that, the aspiring bigs also have to show their excellent forms night in and night out, as the frontline spots are loaded with the presence of shoo-ins June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, and Andray Blatche.
“Their challenge is to break through those big three and find their role in the team. Problema nila, yung tatlo, they’re not too old. ‘Di pa rin matanda yun kaya they really have their work cut out for them.
“They really have to show us they are deserving of a spot in this team,” Reyes declared.
But then again, Torres and Almazan have no qualms over this. And they are more than ready to face the tasks that lie ahead of them.
“That’s really just hoping for the best eh. In my situation, going up against seniors like that, I’m just trying to get better everyday. If you’re not ready yet, then you’re not ready. Pero that’s not gonna stop me from playing basketball,” said Torres.
“To compete and to help the team. Yun yung sa akin pare,” Almazan shared.
“Kung ‘di palarin, eh ‘di try another shot, ‘di ba? Yun lang yung sa’kin eh. Kung ako tatanungin mo, kung makakasali ba ‘ko or ano, ‘di natin alam. ‘Di natin masasabi.
“Basta ako ibibigay ko yung best ko sa practice — kung ano kailangan ni coach, kung ano yung gusto niya makita,” the 6-foot-8 center declared.