Asiad campaign still not in Gilas radar
The Philippines has 12 straight gold medals in men’s basketball of the biennial Southeast Asian Games but only a silver in 1990 in the Asian Games for the country’s favorite sport since ruling the first four editions of the continental competition that started in 1951.
And unless a miracle occurs, the country’s Asiad basketball drought will continue in Indonesia this August with basketball authorities preoccupied with preparation to put up a young team to face the world’s top cagers when the country plays host to the 2023 Fiba World Cup and the current stars gearing up for the second window of the ongoing 2019 World Cup Asian qualifiers.
So far, the Gilas basketball program that takes care of the country’s international campaigns has yet to mention anything about the coming Asiad which remains as the only foreign tournament that Filipinos have a legitimate chance of winning.
With Australia and New Zealand now included in the Asian roster, topping the Fiba Asia World Cup has become an impossible dream for Filipinos already under siege from the entry of the Arab countries which parade bigger lineups.
But there’s hope for success in the Asiad with the current national pool now boasting bigger and sharper players and their development getting full support from patrons led by businessman Manny V. Pangilinan.
And the national team, which placed seventh in 2014, has a key player that can change its Asiad fortune in former NBA veteran Andray Blatche.
If Gilas can get Blatche’s commitment to play in the Asiad, the Nationals will be a tough nut to crack. As it is, he will be available to play for Gilas against Australia and then Japan in the second window of the Fiba Asia World Cup qualifiers, but everything is up in the air from there except that he’s also under contract to play in the Chinese league.
Blatche had shown what he can do as a naturalized player for Gilas in the Southeast Asia Basketball Association (Seaba) championship. He could have done a lot more but he begged off due to safety reasons in the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup where the Filipinos wound up seventh after beating defending champion China in their first game.
Filipino-German Chris Stanhardinger took Blatche’s slot in the Asian event and he remains a sure replacement if Andray fails to suit up.
Another prospective asset for Gilas is the 7-footer Greg Slaughter, who can form a huge twin-tower combination with the 6-10 June Mar Fajardo if he is tapped to play.
A team coached by Robert Jaworski settled for the silver medal in Beijing in 1990 with China claiming the title by routing the Filipinos in their two meetings then.
A bronze came in 1998 for the country’s last podium finish.
The country had a chance of claiming at least a silver in 2002 in Busan, but South Korea won the semifinal duel with a three-point shot at the buzzer after the Filipinos bungled four free throws in the stretch. Dejected, the Nationals dropped the bronze medal game to Kazakhstan.
South Korea, the defending Asian Games champion, has also beaten the Philippines in the Fiba Asia and the Jones Cup last year.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.