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Thursday, June 13, 2024

PBA should help national team program

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The Philippines will host the World Cup next year and our national team, which will be assured slot as a privilege, will certainly be up against world-class teams.

It is not the country’s national sport, basketball being the Filipinos’ national pastime. The passion for the game—from the pock-mocked streets to the shiny wooden floors of well-built hoops—is still embedded in Filipinos of all ages who can still play the game.

Even in multi-event competitions like the Southeast Asian Games, Filipino sports fans would always harp the same pronouncements “matalo na sa lahat, ‘wag lang sa basketball.”

And we did lose—against Indonesia in the finals of the men’s basketball tournament of the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam a few months ago.

Fans could not take it anymore and wanted the head of the current national coach Chot Reyes.

But the problem with the national basketball system is not the skills. It has always been the lack of preparation.

The problem reared its ugly head again on Friday when Gilas Pilipinas lost to Lebanon in window 4 of the FIBA Asia Qualifier for the World Cup.

We had assembled some of the best players available like Fil-American Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz, Dwight Ramos from the Japan Basketball League, Japeth Aguilar of the Ginebra, and Kai Sotto from the National Basketball League in Australia. And they all delivered offensively for Gilas.

Height was no longer a problem for the Philippine side as it outrebounded Lebanon, 48-36, but what brought the Gilas down were the 21 turnovers committed compared to the Lebanese’ only nine miscues.

Gilas coach Chot Reyes blamed it on the players’ unfamiliarity with each other because of limited preparation but he hopes to make up for the next game against Saudi Arabia.

“If we get some more time or more practice together, then we should be able to address that,” Reyes said in a post-game press conference.

The system used by the Northern Consolidated squad of Ron Jacobs and backed up by Danding Cojuangco was the most successful system that should be emulated. They even beat the USA team to win the Jones Cup trophy in the early 80s.

Top amateur players like Samboy Lim, Hector Calma, Allan Caidic, and others were formed together to train and play and represent the country in international competitions.

Doing that in the current time may be near impossible, considering the boom of various high-paying professional leagues in Asia now seeking Filipino talents.

Worthy of considering is the proposal of coach Tim Cone to have selected players from various teams in the PBA, training together once a week under the national team. This would help them be familiarized with the system and with each other.

Sonny Barrios of the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas also put a norm higher by proposing that the PBA adopt some important FIBA rules so that the players get used to the international brand of play and officiating.

“Tumutulong na din lang ang PBA, adopt na nila ang FIBA rules like the interpretation of the rules,” Barrios said.

A proposal like this should be seriously considered if we still want our neighbors in Asia to treat us seriously in basketball.

If we can’t even defend our crown in Southeast Asia, then let’s not put our minds, efforts, and resources into basketball anymore.

Let’s focus on individual sports like boxing or weightlifting where we can excel on the global stage.

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