s a long-time follower of local hoops, it certainly has been quite a journey made even sweeter by this satisfying situation we are all in right now. When skeptics thought we Filipinos should finally turn our backs on our fate in basketball, here we are: 2014 FIBA World Cup qualified!
It truly has been one amazing 11-day ride. More than the fact that we’ve just made global history when the sport is in its most competitive stage, it is important to celebrate the circumstances that led us to this brighter future in international basketball. Starring the beloved national team and our PUSO, here are 8 inspiring 2013 FIBA Asia moments worth reliving.8. MVP being MVP
What many don’t realize is that when Manny Pangilinan’s Smart Gilas Pilipinas program was formed in 2009, it took two to three years to test out and tweak into what it is today. From the original lineup that had the Chris Tiu-led roster coached by Rajko Toroman (formerly of powerhouse team Iran) we ended up with an all-Philippine Basketball Association squad mentored by a PBA championship coach. This is not to take away anything from Gilas 1.0, rather proof that desired results aren’t achieved overnight.
Straight out of the 26-year-old’s fruitless campaign to make it into the USA’s National Basketball Association late 2012, the former Gilas 1.0 member made headlines when he we wanted out of his mother ball club Talk ‘N’ Text (owned by MVP) upon his return to the PBA. He got some tongue-lashing online from his then Coach Chot Reyes, after Japeth demanded playing time and supposedly got none. Fast-forward to his FIBA Asia highlight reel—Japeth swatting it away! Japeth throwing it down! Japeth, months after his failed NBA bid, got the playing time and made his entire country proud, just what he wanted.
A typical case of the-experience-so-great-it-is-a-reward-in-itself. Team manager Butch Antonio’s gesture shouldn’t be interpreted any other way. It is sharing the glory; it is really leaving no one behind. We bet the act has touched reserve player Beau Belga more than the actual silver medal. Even if it came in a pot filled with extra rice.
The individual that probably got the most moral support from the hometown crowd throughout the entire tournament was PBA scoring champ Gary David. His shooting struggle was the entire nation’s struggle. But the cheers never wavered. And on the ninth day, as if on cue, Gary finally blasted 22 points to carry the team past Kazakhstan in the quarterfinal round. Home court advantage never felt so good.
Let’s face it: we won’t be here if it weren’t for Marcus. We really Douthit (yeah, I went there). But God blessed the moment when he fell that our undersized big men, led by Marc Pingris and Ranidel De Ocampo, decided to step up and demonstrate how the size of the heart counted just as well.
National Collegiate Athletic Association and PBA viewers have been witnesses to Jayson Castro’s quickness. What we saw in the FIBA Asia matches—his fearless drives to the basket, mid-air collisions against Asia’s tallest players, and ice-cold treys—it’s too typical Jayson. This is why it was a pleasure seeing him get named Asia’s top point guard. But what we will remember the most of his first national stint is his display of emotion on the court. The always quiet Jayson was playing for our flag, after all. All the noise from his emergence and name confusion didn’t fall on deaf ears.
Before the tournament began, Coach Chot got the bulk of the criticism. It may have come with the designation or his background. It may have come with his demands while the previous PBA conference was still ongoing. Coach Chot just wanted everything to go according to plan. Like how he built his coaching staff, and selected some more dedicated players over the more talented ones. Or how he helped harness Japeth’s gifts, or how he inserted Gabe Norwood to defend Kim Min-goo in the dying seconds of the semifinal clash against South Korea. That’s just Coach Chot. Now go blame him for our victory.
A showing of thousands, day-in and day-out for almost two weeks—there’s nothing more to ask for from Pinoys at the conclusion of this year’s FIBA Asia. It has been all for the long, tumultuous love affair between this proud nation and their basketball—an affair that’s been going on since the ‘60s.
Over 30 years since their last appearance in the World Cup, the Philippine Team will once more be standing head-to-shoulder against the likes of Team USA, Turkey and Spain. It will also be 60 years since the last time the country has won a medal in the FIBA World Championship. It has been a long dramatic delay, indeed, but to us fans who never lost hope, this is really only the beginning.