Lutz and Lassiter: Petron's two of a kind - The Smart Gilas boys
MANILA, Philippines - Filipino-Americans Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter had no idea what basketball looked like in the Philippines until they received calls to represent the country through the Smart Gilas Pilipinas developmental program.
Lassiter - who traces his roots to Ilocos Sur - is a 6-foot-2 wing man out of California State-Fullerton. He brought his outside sniping and lock down defense with his afro haircut when he first suited up for Smart Gilas at the 2010 Dubai International Basketball Tournament in January, where the Philippines finished with a bronze medal.
Lutz, who was a member of the Big 10 All Freshman Team back in Purdue before transferring to Marshall University where he was the team captain, first got a taste of the action at the 2010 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Saudi Arabia. However, the nationals finished in a measly 7th place.
Together, the two formed a deadly duo for Gilas; both play almost identical roles. They were terrific wing defenders on one end and deadly shooters at the other. Lutz and Lassiter would also play at the Asian Games and the Taiwan Jones Cup, although their most important role came at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China.
Due to nationality issues, both players were prevented from suiting up in Smart Gilas' first three assignments against Bahrain, UAE, and China. Luckily, the Philippines quickly found a way to patch things and the two wing men were given the go signal in the second round. Both were instrumental because of the energy and hustle they brought to the squad. Gilas would have not gone a long way without these two guys manning their wings.
Their stint with the national team proved to be their passport to playing pro basketball in the country. When they joined the 2011 PBA Draft, Lutz was selected 3rd overall by Petron Blaze while Lassiter came in at 4th overall for the Powerade Tigers. As the starting small forward for the Tigers, Lassiter had the better rookie season, leading the 8th-seeded Powerade to the finals of the 2011-2012 Philippine Cup.
Lutz grabbed the spotlight as well for the Boosters, playing his heart out every step of the way. Lassiter was eventually dealt to the Boosters on April 2012, reuniting with his Smart Gilas partner Lutz.
In the 2013-2014 PBA Philippine Cup, Lutz has been averaging 15.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, and 5.3 APG while Lassiter is logging 14.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 3.3 APG. Both have been vital pieces to the Boosters' 10-4 record in this conference.
Rappler: How does it feel to be part of a long developmental program?
Marcio Lassiter: It's a good opportunity for me; I learned a lot from the international play.
Chris Lutz: It's great coming here and it was my first opportunity to play out here. I played with a lot of great guys like Marcio, JVee (Casio), Dylan (Ababou), Chris (Tiu), Japeth (Aguilar), Greg (Slaughter), all those guys. It's a great opportunity to start my career with that.
Rappler: How did the Smart Gilas program helped you in improving your game?
ML: I just learned from the games. I learned different styles and I just kept on improving as a player.
CL: It definitely helped; beside getting my feels better with Coach Rajko (Toroman), I got better with all the international competition. I got a chance to sit back and watch PBA teams' scrimmaging.
Rappler: What's your favorite moment while with Smart Gilas?
ML: It's all the players. It's like a family. We're like brothers; we'll share the memories we have on and off the court.
CL: There's a lot of things. My favorite thing aside from the trips is going out to practice. They were a great group of guys. All of them were great. Being around them on a regular basis is cool.
Rappler: What's the best thing Coach Rajko Toroman taught you?
ML: I just try to incorporate everything he taught me it apply it in my game.
CL: Just working hard and working out everyday. We had tournaments that were months apart and he just instilled that discipline that we should give a hundred percent.
Established 5 years ago, the Smart Gilas Pilipinas men's basketball team went all over the globe with the quest of making it to the 2012 London Olympics.
The team fell just two games short but left so many fond memories which still resonate in basketball fans' minds until now.
It has been 5 years since their remarkable journey. Rappler Sports' Levi Verora gives you an 11-part special every Thursday as we look back at one of the best Philippine national basketball teams ever assembled.
Bookmark this page and tune in every Thursday as we throw you back to Smart Gilas' inspiring road towards basketball supremacy.
Part 2: Ginebra's Twin Towers (coming out next week)
Part 3: The Tamaraws
Part 4: The Reinforcements I
Part 5: The Reinforcements II
Part 6: The original big boys
Part 7: The three musketeers
Part 8: Baracael cherishes 'second life' with Ginebra
Part 9: The search for the naturalized center
Part 10: The Dominicans
Part 11: The Pioneers
Check back again next week for the latest story here on The Smart Gilas boys: 5 years after. - Rappler.com