Inspiration & Sports

A Basketball Wish For The Philippines

Just a basketball wish…

I wish sports patron Manny V. Pangilinan, the big boss of Smart and PLDT would lengthen his support to the national team to maybe, the next eight to 10 years so that current college stars like Ray Parks, Greg Slaughter, Kiefer Ravena, the Teng brothers Jeron and Jeric, Ronald Pascual, and many others, would be able to train and help regain the country’s once respectable status in Asia.

There’s no doubt that Smart Gilas 2.0 national coach Chot Reyes and his army of PBA stars are doing their very best to help bring the country back to its once lofty Asian status.

However, if we will keep depending on PBA players, who have careers to take care and who have professional obligations as well for their mother ball clubs, then probably (I hope I’m wrong) it will take longer for us to really experience breakthrough in the Asian basketball level.

Why? Because such practice has been done since 1990 and thus far, we haven’t had a breakthrough at all, except win our only silver in the Beijing Asian Games in 1990 and a bronze in 1998 in the Bangkok Asiad.

Middle East countries like Iran and Qatar were never really in the Asian basketball radar during the country’s glory days in the 1980s, but have since risen to power in the region.

When I chanced upon PBA commissioner Chito Salud an hour before the PBA press conference was to start this afternoon at the Diamond Hotel, the table discussion we had involving veteran sports writers Barry Pascua, Bandera sports editor Fred Nasiad and Melvin Sarangay and Business Mirror’s Joel Orellana was about the Smart Gilas national team.

In the course of our discussion, Commissioner Salud talked about how he also wished we had a sports patron who would really fund our national team not just for three or five years, but really for a longer period of time – till we see a tangible fruit in Asian tournaments.

Of course, Smart Gilas 2.0’s recent feats in the Jones Cup he said, should not be taken lightly, considering that in such a short period of time, that team composed of the PBA players, was able to win the title it last held in 1998.

The fourth place finish in the recent Fiba Asia Cup though was an eye-opener of the many adjustments we need to make, particularly in the game’s fundamental aspects like perimeter shooting and free throw shooting, he added.

Just to refresh our memory, the country’s most recent successful basketball program took place during the first half of the 1980s, back when then ambassador Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco was still the project director for basketball in the country.

Through his tremendous support as well as by tapping the services of American mentor Ron Jacobs, his six-year basketball program produced a couple of Southeast Asian Games basketball gold medals (1981 and 1985), a gold in the Asian Youth (under-19) basketball title held at the Araneta Coliseum, a PBA championship in the 1985 Reinforced Conference, the 1984 ABC Club Championship, the 1985 William Jones Cup title and finally the 1985 ABC men’s championship (now known as the Fiba Asia men’s championship) held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

All these didn’t happen overnight.

It took a lot of money, time, effort and strategy to discover, hone and constantly train and prepare the up and coming local stars of the 1980s that included Allan Caidic, Hector Calma, Samboy Lim, Louie Brill as well as the strong support of naturalized players Dennis Still, Jeff Moore and shooter Arthur “Chip” Engelland.

It has been almost 30 years since we last ruled the Fiba Asian men’s championships.

Hopefully, Smart Gilas 2.0’s recent basketball attempts will serve as the seeds that would be nurtured by sports patrons, whose passion for excellence will eventually catapult the Philippines back to Asian dominance.

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