MANILA, Philippines – Indonesia's naturalized player, Jamarr Johnson, was one of Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes' biggest concerns heading into the gold medal match of the Southeast Asian Basketball Association Championship.
Johnson, along with Indonesian-Americak Arki Wisnu, was expected to give Indonesia additional firepower against Gilas Pilipinas, but it's fair to say that he fell well short of expectations.
With Andray Blatche guarding him, Johnson mustered only four points in 17 minutes and 33 seconds of playing time, making two of his six attempts. One of his shots was a three-pointer that did not even draw iron, drawing jeers from the Araneta Center crowd.
He appeared increasingly frustrated and disheartened as Gilas pulled away in the third period, and not even a jumper that he scored over Blatche could spark Johnson. He was yanked out with 4:29 left in the third quarter.
"I know I performed horribly," Johnson said after Indonesia slumped to a 64-97 loss to the Philippines. "But there is a lot that goes into the situation that I'm in right now with the team."
However, Johnson made it clear that he did not actually believe that Indonesia had a chance to beat Gilas Pilipinas, a team full of PBA veterans and backed by the naturalized Blatche.
"I'm still looking to do whatever I can for the team, but we are obviously undersized and undermanned against a team like the Philippines. There's no way we can defeat them," he admitted.
"They have three 6-foot-10 guys, and a really solid core. It's almost impossible, with our roster right now, to even compete," he explained. "It's impossible."
Gilas Pilipinas was simply "too big" for Indonesia on Thursday, Johnson said, and the statistics bore out his sentiments. The Filipinos had a massive 53-25 advantage in rebounding, including a 21-8 edge on offensive boards. They scored 28 second-chance points against only 12 for Indonesia.
Johnson, who is 6-foot-5, found himself battling on the block against the 6-foot-11 Blatche and the 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo. Even when the two behemoths were on the bench, Gilas Pilipinas still had the luxury of sending in the uber-athletic trio of Japeth Aguilar, Troy Rosario, and Raymond Almazan into the game.
"In basketball, you need a couple of things," said Johnson. "You need athleticism, and you need size. The Philippines have both of that."
"Until we can actually get to a place where we have the size and athleticism to compete, it's gonna be hard for any nation to beat the Philippines at this time," he stressed. "Hats off to them, but they're just superior at this time."
Indonesia expects to meet the Philippines again in the Southeast Asian Games in August. They faced off for the gold medal in the 2015 edition of the event, with the Philippines winning by a slim margin. However, even at this point, Johnson feels that Indonesia does not stand a chance at unseating the Philippines – and that is just fine with the powers that be in Indonesian basketball.
"I just feel like for the SEA Games, Indonesia's goal is to get second," Johnson said. "For us to get second is satisfying for our team, for our management. If that's what they are happy with, then I will do my best to be OK with that as well."
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