Not many people believed Gilas Pilipinas would do well even in the Asian level. Then some people dared to dream and worked hard to bring the FIBA Asia tournament to Manila. The Phl placed second in that said tournament and qualified for the FIBA World tournament in Spain.
Filipinos tempered their expectations for the tournament in Spain. Nobody thought the Phl could beat Argentina, Greece or Croatia. To make the second round, Gilas Pilipinas had to beat Puerto Rico then go all out vs Senegal. Well, Gilas Pilipinas reinforced by Andre Blatche nearly beat Croatia and Argentina, getting worldwide attention. Gilas Pilipinas could have beaten Puerto Rico but it wasn’t meant to be. This FIBA World experience however, would go a long, long way for the Phl.
Our better-than-expected-performance in Spain has now raised the expectations of our fellow Filipinos. Being the best performing Asian team in Spain, some people expect to get the Gold. The Asian Games organizers disallowed Andre Blatche from playing but not Marcus Douthit. Can Douthit help us get the Gold? It’s a tall order so let’s see.
As I watch the Phl play Iran in the Asian Games, I notice the Filipinos aren’t intimidated with the Iranians anymore. Two years ago, Haddadi had a field day against us by having a double-double and Iran seemed to be toying with us. Iranians are big and tend to bully smaller opponents. Take out Haddadi, Iran becomes nothing great. Just like Yao Ming to China. Skill-wise, Filipinos are better than the Iranians. But we are just significantly smaller and lighter. We can beat Iran but we need a good import.
The Gilas pool has been together for over a year now. With team members practicing together and playing international tournaments, Gilas Pilipinas can only get better. Currently the Phl is ranked 31st but if one looks at the FIBA rankings, we can realistically go as high as 13th. With the current success of the team, I’m sure any Filipino basketball player would love to play for Gilas and his country. Now if only the other team owners of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) can lend their players foregoing business rivalries. We all know basketball unites this country so Gilas success is Philippine success. Good luck Gilas! Make us proud. Puso!!!
Thank you Gilas Pilipinas!
In my previous blog entitled, “Take Heart Phl“, I mentioned about the Filipinos over-reliance on its import in the last 5 minutes causing the Filipinos to freeze and abandon their attacking style for the half-court set. In three of Gilas Pilipinas first four games the game was lost in the last two minutes. How tragic! But that’s basketball and one can only learn from defeat and move on.
Against Senegal, Gilas Pilipinas was ahead most of the game until Senegal made a final run and sent the game into overtime. With about two minutes remaining in overtime, Andre Blatche fouled out and I’m sure not many people gave the Phl a chance. But no the Filipinos found a way to win through defense and conversion of free throws! Call it Serendipity. The Filipinos had to dig deep inside and trust the system. The players have proved to themselves that they can win on their own merits. This experience is invaluable and will be remembered for a long, long time.
I want to thank all the Gilas players for sacrificing for their country, thank Chot Reyes and the coaching staff for showing a basketball style that is uniquely Filipino, and thank the team backers and managers for dreaming big, for showing their countrymen that we can hustle with the big boys and for reminding us that “Yes, The Filipino Can!” Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
In this FIBA World Cup, the Gilas Pilipinas basketball team played with a lot of heart and won the admiration of the basketball community worldwide. In three of their four games, the Phl team could have won but fell short. And I think I know why…Dinadaga! Though they take pride in their heart – or Puso, as the tagline goes – when it comes to the end game, the locals seem to freeze. Except for that one game vs Argentina when Jimmy Alapag made 5 three-pointers to give the Phl a chance for victory, the Phl exercised their bad habit of over-relying on their import.
In the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) when it’s crunch time, the ball usually goes to the import. Why? Because he is the highest paid and that’s what he is paid to do. Andre Blatche is an excellent player and is considered our naturalized import or reinforcement. But then there are 4 other guys who can take over a game or take the last shot. Make no mistake about it, Andre Blatche is the reason the Phl has become more competitive and is definitely an asset to the team.
What I’m just saying is that in the last five minutes of a game, the Phl loses it’s running game and becomes a half-court team ala NBA. Players just stay in their spots in case Blatche has to kick out the ball and the offense is reset. The fast attacking game disappears and we lose our advantage.
I want to state that there is no blame game here. Gilas Pilipinas came to Spain to compete and gain international experience and they did with flying colors. Maybe it’s also a lack of international experience that did us in. We may be small in size but we are big in heart! Maybe Filipinos like doing things the hard way that’s why we root for the underdog. So take heart Gilas Pilipinas! We have one more game. It may be no bearing for us but I know you will give your best. Laban Pilipinas!