THE PHILIPPINES gets the golden chance to host once again on Aug. 1 to 11 the Fiba Asia basketball tournament, the qualifier for the World Championship next year in Madrid. The top three teams will qualify to the world championship from a field of 15 teams which are the best and toughest in Asia.
Formerly known as the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) tournament, the event was dominated by Filipinos in the past. The last time the Philippines won was in 1973 behind the sweet-shooting William Adornado, the legendary Robert Jaworski, the tall but nimble Ramon Fernandez and Alberto Guidaben, with capable support from playmakers Francis Arnaiz and Rosalio Martinez.
Also in the powerhouse team were Ricardo Cleofas, Rogelio Melencio, Manuel Paner, David Regullano, and Alberto Reynoso. Beanpole Jaime Mariano was the team captain, with alternate Lawrence Mumar and Gregorio Dionisio. The team coach was the late Valentin “Tito” Eduque.
The Filipinos were also the winners of the ABC in 1960 (Manila), in 1963 (Taiwan) and were likewise a dominant factor in Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Bangkok and Tokyo.
Hagop Khajirian of Lebanon, the Fiba Asia secretary general who was a recent Manila visitor, said “it does not come every year to host the event for the first time in 40 years.” He also urged the host team to put up a great effort since “success will come as a result of hard work, and not by luck. There’s no luck in winning the championship.”
The Lebanese basketball guru later signed the hosting agreement with tycoon and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan, officially making Manila the home of Asia’s biggest basketball show this year.
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Philippine team coach Chot Reyes said he’s glad that Philippine Basketball Association commissioner Chito Salud is doing everything to benefit the Filipino five. The PBA had earlier passed a resolution requiring its member-teams to lend at least one player to the national team.
Reyes has won two international titles since taking over the Smart Gilas Pilipinas program last year. He said members of the Jones Cup, Fiba Asia Cup and Dubai and Hong Kong tournament teams that he handled will all be considered for the national five in the Fiba Asia Men’s Championship.
The Philippines, which will clash with powerful teams in the region including China, Iran, Lebanon and South Korea, finished a record third place in the World Basketball Championship in Rio de Janeiro in 1954.
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The country’s team preparing for this year’s Fiba World qualifier in Madrid started a mite too late unlike its rivals who have been playing as a team for so many months now.
“The Filipinos are definitely facing rough sailing in the world championship. It is not only China, Iran and South Korea that stand in their way,” said an insider. “They also have to contend with Lebanon, one of the strongest teams in the region, whose players are quite strong, experienced and skillful.”