Myers perfect for Gilas

SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson

Import Mike (Buddy) Myers is not a dominant player and it’s no wonder TNT KaTropa stuck with Joshua Smith instead of the former University of Maryland Eastern Shore forward in the recent PBA Commissioner’s Cup. He has “bad” hands, meaning a difficulty in getting a grip on the ball, isn’t a go-to guy and can’t execute the pick-and-roll without losing focus. The lowdown on Myers is he’s just an average player, someone you don’t pay big bucks to suit up as an import anywhere in the world.

Ironically, Myers is perfect for the Gilas squad now playing in the Jones Cup in Taipei. Of course, Gilas head coach Chot Reyes wants to win the tournament and his chances would exponentially improve with a dominant import. He did it once before in 2012, becoming the first Filipino to achieve the feat. Bo Perasol has since duplicated the accomplishment, towing Mighty Sports to the throne last year with the help of seven imports, including former NBA players Al Thornton, Hamady N’diaye and Vernon Macklin.

But more than the championship, what Reyes wants is to mature the players with Gilas whose average age is 24.3 years. If Myers were a Justin Brownlee or a Charles Rhodes or a Ricardo Ratliffe or even a Joshua Smith, his Gilas teammates wouldn’t be able to get as many opportunities to showcase their skills and improve their game. It’s fine that Myers is a role player, bad hands and all. At least, he’s making his teammates work harder and not just rely on him for rebounds, points and interior defense.

In Gilas’ 88-72 win over Chinese-Taipei Blue last Sunday, Myers played as advertised. He missed uncontested layups, bungled dunks and stepped away from pick-and-rolls instead of moving towards the basket. Under the basket, Myers was blocked repeatedly. What endears him to Reyes is his work attitude. Myers obviously knows his limitations so he labors extra hard to make up for his deficiencies. He may lack talent but he plays with a big heart. For Reyes, that’s good enough for a contract with Gilas in the Jones Cup.

For the record, Jones Cup isn’t a FIBA-sanctioned competition. It’s an invitational tournament named after Renato Williams Jones, FIBA’s founding secretary general who ruled from 1932 to 1976. Jones, a British citizen, was born in Rome and died in Munich in 1981 at the age of 74. Because it isn’t a FIBA-sanctioned competition, the Jones Cup has its own eligibility rules. Teams are allowed to play with an unlimited number of imports. National squads like to participate in the Jones Cup for the experience and the training. 

In Gilas’ 90-77 loss to Canada 150 last Saturday, Myers compiled seven points, nine rebounds and three assists in 18:01 minutes, hitting 3-of-9 field goals and 1-of-4 free throws. With Myers unable to stand his ground, Fil-German Christian Standhardinger got Reyes’ nod to fill in and delivered nine points and 10 boards in 25:33 minutes.   

Gilas led, 20-19, at the end of the first period but collapsed in the second quarter which Canada took, 25-14. In that collapse, Gilas never went to the line, gave up 10 free throws, missed five triples, surrendered three triples and committed nine turnovers to Canada’s four. To Gilas’ credit, Reyes’ squad kept pace with Canada in the second half and was outscored by only three points. Canada wound up knocking down 31-of-40 free throws compared to Gilas’ 14-of-21.

Canada’s average age is 26.5 years. The oldest player is 6-2, 32-year-old Joey Haywood who was once on the And1 Mixed Tape Tour as “King Handles.” Haywood, Diego Kapelan, Michael Kyser and Garrett Williamson scored in twin digits against Gilas. All four boast either NBA D-League or import credentials so their experience is extensive. Canada’s coach Kyle Julius led the London Lightning to the Canada league title this season with a 35-5 record, including 17 straight wins.

With only seconds left on the clock, Julius waved off his players from scoring out of respect for the game and Gilas. Julius may not know it but in the Jones Cup, the quotient system will apply in case of ties. There will be no playoffs to determine standings at the end of the single-round robin affair so it’s important to score as many points as possible while holding opponents to a minimum in case the quotient system kicks in later.

Against Chinese-Taipei Blue, Myers had nine points on 3-of-11 field goals and 3-of-5 free throws, 11 boards and three assists in 22:33 minutes. Standhardinger once again got the opportunity to shine and delivered 17 points on 7-of-11 field goals and 3-of-3 free throws, 15 rebounds and three dimes in 25:16 minutes. If Myers were a better player, Standhardinger may not have shone as brightly.

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