Rajko Toroman must have been wondering why this woman sipping hot Americano coffee with player agent Charlie Dy was asking too many questions.
It was Game 4 of the Talk ‘N Text-Rain or Shine Philippine Cup championship series at the Araneta Coliseum and Charlie and I had taken a break at Starbuck’s when the newly appointed head coach of Barako Bull walked in.
“How do you size up the opposition in the 27th Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship?” I asked the former Smart-Gilas coach, cutting in on his intimate tete-a-tete with Charlie, who didn’t bother to introduce us since he must have presumed that we already knew each other.
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Toroman’s reply was spontaneous. He didn’t have to think hard and long.
“Let’s see. First, there’s China. China only plays well when it has the homecourt advantage. Then there’s Iran, whose players are getting old. Jordan? The team has a new coach and he’s not so good.”
“South Korea…”, either Toroman didn’t say anything or he could have muttered something unintelligible, the place being a bit too noisy.
“Are you trying to tell me that we have a good chance to win the Fiba-Asia title this August?” I needed a clear answer before I set my hopes high.
“Yes, the Philippines has a good chance to win,” he said without batting an eyelash.
“Do we?” I immediately threw the question at a fellow scribe who regularly covers international competitions as I echoed the forecast of the Serbian coach who steered the Philippines to a fourth place finish in Wuhan, China two years ago.
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“My experience with coach Toroman is that he always predicts the opposite. The last two Fiba-Asia competitions were staged in China. China won the last one in Wuhan, while the one before that in Tianjin was won by Iran. The Philippines finished seventh under coach Yeng Guiao.”
“For the longest time we have not won against South Korea. Our losses, in fact, were heartbreaking, like that one in Busan in 2002 under coach Jong Uichico. So if I were you, I would not set my hopes too high for this year’s championship which will serve as the qualifier for the 2014 World Cup in Spain.”
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By the way, Charlie Dy has just returned from a six-week vacation in the United States, where he watched the Dec. 8 fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.
“I was seated right beside Shane Mosley and his Latina girlfriend who cheered wildly for Marquez throughout the fight.
Charlie said Mosley just watched and stayed neutral.
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Alaska Aces Calvin Abueva and Gabby Espinas received a memo from PBA Commissioner Chito Salud last Friday asking them to explain in writing why they should not be penalized for “breaching their uniform players’ contract.”
Abueva and Espinas were caught on video playing an “outside” game in Sta. Maria, Bulacan, without seeking permission from their mother team and the PBA Commissioner’s office.
“This is very explicit in the UPC,” said PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial. “The players are prohibited to play in any exhibition game or league outside the PBA without clearance from both the mother team and the PBA commissioner.”
According to Willie, that’s not the only “don’t” for the players.
“They’re also not allowed to engage in games/sports and activities such as boxing, football, wrestling, biking, motorcycling, car racing, etc, without permission.”
It would be interesting to see how these two will wiggle out of their predicament.