CEBU CITY, Philippines – Ti’s a season of basketball experts, reloaded. You see Filipino basketball experts come around every NBA Finals, esp. if it involves the Golden State Warriors, and during FIBA competitions that involve Gilas Pilipinas.
So to satiate my hunger to write this column, I might as well join the bandwagon of “basketball experts.” My 20 plus years of being a basketball writer may come in handy for this piece.
Everybody, if not most basketball fans were frustrated with the fat egg finish of Gilas Pilipinas in the ongoing FIBA World Cup 2019 in China. And who wouldn’t, I too am frustrated.
Even my daughter Rose Florence, who just took interest in watching basketball games lately, during the PBA Governor’s Cup Finals to be exact, was also frustrated with the debacle of the Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team.
Oh by the way she understands the game because she used to join summer basketball clinics eons ago.
So I’ll walk you through my conclusions, the way I schooled my daughter.
Probably, some were too enthusiastic when the Philippines nabbed a seat to the World Cup, some wanted the moon but were dismayed to see Gilas stuck in the mucky Estero of Manila. Yet, we forgot the manner on how our team got here.
Like Australia, New Zealand, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Jordan, the Philippines went under a tough road as they competed against the rest of the teams bracketed in Asia-Oceania.
China which was part of the Asia-Oceania elimination was granted an automatic slot to the World Championships being the host.
At this level, Gilas struggled. Some games though were blowout wins for the Philippines especially on the first window.
But as the Qualifying tournament went deeper, the vulnerability of Gilas was gradually exposed and remember that unpopular riot at the Philippine Arena involving Gilas and Australia Boomers.
That one put the Philippines in bad light in the international basketball arena and revealed how immature we are in terms of international basketball.
Nine players from Gilas plus coach Chot Reyes were suspended for at least one game while three players from Australia served suspensions.
In addition, the two squads had to pay a combined 360,000 Swiss Francs (260,000 for the PHI and 100,000 for AUS) to FIBA. Worse Philippines home games are under a 3-year probation period (one year had passed).
This prompted the changes in our coaching cast. Thus enter Yeng Guiao! And oh, I nearly forgot to mention Keifer Ravena’s 18-month suspension because he was found to have a banned substance in his system.
The FIBA World games were actually his first series of games after being banned to play basketball.
Guiao’s entry has its highs and lows. The highs include mastery over Qatar and an 18-point win over Kazakhstan at their home.
The lows include back-to-back loss to Iran and a home loss to Kazakhstan. However, that was not the point here.
The Philippines made the World Cup because South Korea defeated Lebanon. Lebanon and the Philippines entered their last game with 6-5 win-loss cards.
Had Lebanon won that game, the Philippines could have been eliminated from the World Cup.
But thanks to our bitter rival South Korea, which treated the game as if their lives depend on it.
By the way, Korea could afford to take a dip since they were already qualified to the world stage, having a 9-2 card entering the final game.
There… there! before you think about uttering explicit (which I did after Gilas lost to Angola. Although it was subjective, still it was explicit).
And speaking of which, some thought it was a waste of Filipino money, no it’s not.
Technically the money used to finance the Gilas program was coming from the Filipinos, but not the people’s taxes.
Every time you buy a load, paid for your telephone and internet bills, text and call somebody, part of it found its way to the Gilas program.
So if you were dismayed for a one-month internet service that is only good for 15 days, or the turtle-paced internet connection or the delayed repair of your telephone or internet connections or loss of cell phone load, think of Gilas Pilipinas. That is a package!
And now for my “expert” opinion, Gilas really has no enough materials in the world stage.
As I have stated above, the Philippines struggled in the Asia-Oceania level. We barely made it to the World Championship, and yet we expect us to win games.
Again we don’t have the materials, yet. Last week I was interviewed by Super Bobby Nalzaro over DYSS Super Hirit portion with Edgar Guttierez, regarding Gilas performance in the World Cup, I reiterated that we don’t have the materials, especially at the shooter’s position.
In 2014 our first appearance to the world stage in 40-years, the world doesn’t have any idea of our game yet, because back then the qualifying tournament was just a one-shot thing.
This time it is a worldwide event with a home-and-away format. Although we gave a few teams a run for their money, we end up winning only one game that is over Senegal, the same nation we defeated 40 years ago.
I emphasized that while we have a decent line-up, our brand of game doesn’t fit at the world level. While the world evolved rapidly, while not giving up the size and height advantage, we are stuck with the dribble and drive brand, which proved to be an inferior system as evident by our dismal performance in the FIBA Asia-Oceania qualifying. Yet we stick to the same system in the World stage without a reliable shooters. Dribble and drive will only become unpredictable if you have a high percentage shooter.
I also told Super Bobby and Super Edgar that what can we expect from a team that is formed only two weeks prior to the derby?
But we were used to it, and that is always the reason for our bad performance in any international tournament.
The very long PBA Season is unproductive since our National team is basically made up of PBA players.
When I covered the Batang Pinoy National Finals in Palawan in the last week of August, my fellow sportswriters were discussing this and we agreed on one thing – the NCC (North Consolidated Cement) formula of Danding Cojuangco is the best solution if we want to have a strong National Basketball Team.
That is forming a national team out of the top Collegiate (amateur) players to be the representative of the Philippines.
Pay them salaries they could get as rookies in the pros. Train them year in and year out, that way they will get to be cohesive as one team.
There were attempts to copy this program – Gilas 1.0 which was handled by Rajko Toroman.
However, the program was disbanded because of the change of management, … thus enter Chot Reyes, and the rest of the story was already told.
Our future looks bright, we may have won nothing this year, but we are already granted automatic access to the World Championships in 2023.
Let’s just build a strong team – built around the young guns – Kai Sotto, EJ Edu among others.
Let this year’s debacle be our lesson for 2023. And for God’s sake, forget about dribble-drive, because that is usually interpreted literally – the one who dribbles is the one who drives. Ughhhh!
Cebu sportswriter fraternity lost a dear colleague, Gabby Malagar, who was fondly called Gabmals joined his Creator last Sunday morning, September 8, 2019. He was 64. Rest in Peace Gabriel! Vaya con Dios! Travel well. May the Lord our God take you to his Kingdom, where eternal peace and happiness resides. Until then my friend.