A WEEK after the Philippines secured a ticket to the Fiba World Cup in Spain next year, fans, critics and pundits are still abuzz talking about the Fiba Asia championship and can’t wait for the next tournament.
It’s been awhile since we’ve finished so well and came so close to the title and so it’s understandable that in this basketball-crazy country, the topic is still hot. But let’s review what’s still being discussed and how they impact on the long-term participation of a Philippine basketball team in international competition.
Size does matter.—The goal of the Gilas team was to be one of three teams to make it to the World Championships. That was achieved.
Finally, returning to the Asian throne may take a while because we have to be concerned about the size of the other teams. At the world championship, we will see this reality up close, as the European, American and South American teams will be bigger, nimble and athletic.
If we had played South Korea, Chinese Taipei or even China in the finals, we would have had more than a decent chance. But Iran was a different team: It had size, speed and smarts.
Our basketball decision-makers will have to take this into consideration because no matter how athletic or fleet-footed Filipinos are, if they have no ball to run with because the giants on the other side have already secured it, it doesn’t really matter.
Having naturalized players is part of the game.—There was a time when purists could not come to terms with a Philippine team that had naturalized players.
The world has changed and perhaps has become more global in perspective so that citizenship, whether for sports or a lifetime decision, can be shared. The other countries have done it and we’re just catching up.
We just have to shoot well from the perimeter.—The three-point shot is part of basketball today. It is still a low percentage shot because of the distance involved. But we have to start teaching young boys and girls how to shoot it properly because three-pointers do make a difference in the game.
Young children usually frowns on shooting treys because when they miss the shot generally produces long rebounds. And in leagues involving grade school teams, picking up a long rebound results in a fastbreak attack led by an opposing player who knows how to slash to the basket.
This summer, our many basketball schools should continue to emphasize the basic ball-handling skills but should spend some time teaching proper shooting. Having once taught kids in one of Chot Reyes’ camps, I know it takes some time to teach proper shooting form and instincts.
Let younger players play in the SEA Games.—Sports leaders are naturally concerned every time the regional games come around. They want the basketball gold medal. It’s just one medal from one sport but the PH campaign seems like a failure if the hoops gold is not pocketed.
But let’s give younger players like the Gilas cadets an opportunity to gain international exposure.
There will be nervous moments because of their youth and there will be no experienced pros. But they will pull through because as long as the team is coached well, a Philippine team will be hard to beat in the SEA Games.
It’s not a complacency issue: We just have to give younger players a chance to play for the country.
So the talk will continue as our regular hoop leagues pick up after the Fiba Asia games and we look ahead to the world championship and the next Asian tournaments. There will still be a lot to talk about.