MANILA, Philippines—The success of the Smart Gilas-Pilipinas five in the recent Jones Cup in Taipei has inspired no less than President Aquino who now wants to help boost the team’s campaign in a bigger international event.
Members of the national squad, led by coach Chot Reyes and tournament MVP LA Tenorio, paid the President a courtesy call in Malacañang yesterday and the Chief Executive offered a solution to problems hampering the country’s next outing in the Fiba Asia Cup next month in Tokyo.
Reyes said that a member of the team staff briefed the President that not all talents from the PBA have been made available to the team. After learning of this, Mr. Aquino instructed Reyes to write a formal letter so he could do something about it.
“It’s a pity that a national program might go to waste. Perhaps, I can be of help,” a player quoted the President as saying in Filipino.
“It’s an order coming from the President himself. So yes, I will write him,” Reyes told the Inquirer over the phone.
The Philippines nipped powerhouse United States, 76-75, last Sunday, to win one of Asia’s most popular events for the fourth time, the first since 1998, with a squad that got together just two weeks before opening day.
Tenorio was the fourth quarter hero for the Philippines in its last two games, including a 76-72 triumph over the host Taiwanese that allowed the Filipinos to make the match with the Americans the championship game.
Reyes had come up with a list of pool members a few months back, with all the names coming from practically all the teams in the PBA.
After releasing the names and informing the league, Reyes asked the players in the pool to sign letters of commitment to the national program.
Of those named, Reyes didn’t get replies from B-Meg’s Marc Pingris and two-time PBA MVP James Yap, and Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot of Petron Blaze.
This Jones Cup was the first tournament in the program by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to get the Philippines back in the World Championship scheduled next year in Spain.
The Filipinos will leave on Sept. 12 to play in the fourth Fiba Asia Cup (formerly Stankovic Cup) in Tokyo, Japan, where the top three finishers will earn slots directly into the Fiba Asia World Qualifying.
The Philippines, through the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, is actually bidding to host the Fiba-Asia World Qualifying to be able to gain some sort of home court edge. Other countries wanting to host the event include Japan and Lebanon.
Incidentally, Lebanon belongs to the same group as the Philippines in Tokyo together with China-Macau, Uzbekistan and regional power China.
Meanwhile, Tenorio is still on the trading block, with rumors of a transfer to Barangay Ginebra brewing.
Under the complicated deal, PBA newcomer Global Port will be involved in the deal by giving up JV Casio and other Gin Kings future draft rights.