MANILA, Philippines—There’s no denying the immense pressure riding heavily on the shoulders of the country’s men’s basketball team aiming to reclaim its glory in the Asian basketball scene.
And Chot Reyes, the national team coach, knows it well.
“The way to handle the pressure is to acknowledge that it’s there. We cannot deny it. We have to acknowledge it so that we can embrace it,” Reyes said.
“I don’t think there is any bigger pressure than what we put on ourselves and I don’t think anybody is going to pressure us as much as these teams on the table,” Reyes added, referring to fellow FIBA-Asia Championship contenders Kazakhstan, China, Iran and Jordan during a press conference Tuesday.
The Nationals, who will bank on naturalized center Marcus Douthit, spy guards LA Tenorio and Jayson Castro and outside snipers Gary David and Jeff Chan, seek to secure one of the three slots for next year’s World Cup of basketball in Spain a feat the Philippines hasn’t accomplished since 1978.
And with Asian giants China and Iran, along with South Korea, the Philippines, which hosts the biggest cage meet in the region for the first time in 40 years, will definitely be pushed to its limits.
“It’s hard. There are a lot of expectations playing in our home court but I’d rather be playing at home than anywhere else so that’s just something we really need to embrace. The bigger pressure is really going to come from these teams,” said Reyes. “This is the biggest challenge of our professional lives. Every man on the team. Because it’s being played here, this is a different kind of challenge.”
“Senator Jaworski when he visited practice last night, he gave us very good words of wisdom and he said ’embrace the privilege of playing for the national team’ and it is a privilege and ‘go out and have fun. Enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience.'”
“And I think that’s going to be the mindset that we have to bring in to this group. We know it’s going to be very very hard but we still have to find out a way to enjoy this experience because it’s a once in a lifetime event.”