“We Filipinos seem to think that at least in this little corner of the world, we own the game of basketball”
Basketball fans in this basketball crazy country of ours are up in arms against Gilas Coach Chot Reyes for the dismal performance of Gilas in the recently concluded FIBA Asia Cup in Indonesia.
We only ended winning over perennial loser India. Even Japan, a team that we have been beating for the last 12 years swamped us by a whopping 21 points.
This disenchantment started when we lost to Indonesia in the finals of the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam.
We Filipinos seem to think that at least in this little corner of the world, we own the game of basketball. This is perhaps the reason why we cannot seem to accept that defeat.
I am reminded of that old saying that victory has many fathers, defeat is an orphan.
I do not know whether it is fair to put the blame solely on the shoulders of Coach Reyes.
We have to remember that our neighbors want nothing better than to beat us in basketball.
These countries have also gotten better, wiser and better prepared.
Those who understand the game know that the Indonesian team prepared well and their Serbian coach who used to coach Gilas and knows our style of playing did his homework.
Besides, we should not expect to form a team a week before the tournament and expect to win. That would be arrogance.
What Indonesia did was very much like what our women football team did to Thailand and Vietnam in the recently concluded ASEAN Women’s Regional Football Tournament at the Rizal Stadium.
For the first time ever, our women’s football team hoisted the Champions Trophy.
Who would have believed that our team could beat Vietnam? This is a team that we have never beaten before, yet we beat the Vietnamese players 3 to nil. This goes to show that in any athletic competition, nothing should be taken for granted.
Gone are the days when we used to rule the waves in the game of basketball and the sooner we accept that, the better we can prepare.
So what should we do going forward?
Perhaps to remedy the situation, the public is now being told that Fil-Am Jordan Clarkson of the NBA will be available for the next FIBA window.
Kai Sotto, our 7-foot-3 inches tall NBA aspirant is also being recruited to reinforce the Gilas squad.
There are also reports that some of the old reliable big men will reinforce the team.
There seems to be some difficulty in recruiting the best players. Is it because there are so many involved in the decision making on who should be included?
It used to be that being a member of the national basketball pool is the ultimate honor to a basketball player.
Now, we see some of them begging off to fulfill contractual obligations or preferring to play for foreign clubs who pay a lot better than our local clubs.
As a result of our defeat to Japan, we missed the quarter finals for the first time since 2007.
So, before we will be permanently relegated to the consolation bracket, we better get our act together and review our entire basketball program.
We should do this by getting an unbiased outside body to do the evaluation and assessment. Whether the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas would be willing to do this is, of course, another matter.
The recent debacle was ostensibly due to the fact that young players were selected so that these players can gain the necessary exposure and experience.
This seems to have worked when Tab Baldwin was the coach in the last FIBA outing but apparently failed in the most recent SEA Games and Indonesian FIBA Asia Cup. None of the Baldwin players were included in the SEA games or in Indonesia.
We are now about a year away from the 2023 World FIBA Cup to be jointly hosted by Japan, Indonesia and us.
We, therefore, have time to prepare and organize a good and well balanced team capable of making Filipino basketball fans proud.
Judging from what we are reading in the regular and social media, basketball morale in this country is low. If morale is low, Gilas cannot expect to do well in the next tournament.
It is therefore incumbent upon our basketball leaders to address whatever is ailing the basketball program for the sake of the Filipino basketball fans.
We have to be able to form a confident team that believes in its capability to win games.
This means that we have to select the best players available, choose the best coach for that particular tournament, and give them the best training and support that money can buy.
Good leadership is what is needed.
Otherwise, we might as well kiss all our basketball aspirations goodbye.