‘No Spain, if no seven-footer’
NOW is the time to think big after Gilas Pilipinas gallantly upgraded itself to compete against world-class basketball teams.
Coach Chot Reyes said he could not be prouder of what the Philippine national basketball team did against Iran, which manhandled Gilas in the Fiba Asia title match.
No, the succeeding statement should not be taken to mean coach Reyes has made a turnaround in his appreciation of Gilas Pilipinas’ successful mission in the Asian basketball championship, which ended at Mall of Asia on Sunday.
* * *
“We are not going to Spain without a naturalized seven-footer,” Reyes told the Inquirer after stepping down from the interview podium inside the media room of the Fiba Asia Championship.
This was on Sunday evening, a night after the Philippine team subdued a very tough South Korean squad to claim a berth in the Fiba World Cup slated in Spain next year.
On Saturday night, coach Chot was observed to be weeping while pacing the floor close to the end of the triumphant toil against the feared Korean squad.
* * *
If he indeed shed tears, as reported later by those who observed the hardcourt drama, they were tears of joy from a gifted hardworker who had just been rewarded for his painful labor.
On Sunday, though, coach Chot was definitely not singing in joy.
“Our seven-footer doesn’t necessarily have to be American,” Reyes tried to explain softly.
It was hardly audible, but the declaration was neither a mumble nor a moan.
It sounded more of a battle cry.
* * *
Are they still allowed to change foreign reinforcements this close to the World Cup?
“Yes, and we will have no choice but to go for it, he can come from anywhere,” Reyes affirmed.
Will the seven-footer come from the NBA?
“Not necessarily,” Reyes explained. “He could come from any league in the world.”
* * *
No need to ask if it was the fearsome Hamed Haddadi—the burly, fearsome Iranian team pillar that came to be called a ghoul, kapre, by terrified Pinoy fans—who has led Reyes to make the drastic decision.
The Inquirer also failed to ask Reyes what they would do with American Marcus Douthit, definitely among the big heroes in the national team’s march onto the world basketball stage.
What Reyes made very clear was that they must make a vital move, go big as much as possible, if they hope to at least be competitive against the elite of world basketball whose ranks the Philippines has heroically rejoined.