First Gilas head coach still keeps tabs on PH 5
If there’s someone who can fairly assess just how far the Philippine men’s basketball program has gone, it’s Rajko Toroman.
The Serbian tactician was tapped by the Philippines in 2008 to serve as coach and national team project director. The next year, he led the team to multiple international competitions.
A decade since that partnership, Toroman, now 64, is still paying close attention to the Filipinos.
“They have more international exposure [now]. They’re participating,” he said shortly after a friendly between Gilas Pilipinas and Mighty Sports Philippines on Monday night that ended in an 85-all draw.
“The Philippines [has] become a powerful basketball country in Asia—perhaps one of the best. And they can still improve. Philippine basketball is going up,” he said.
The strides Gilas has made throughout the years, Toroman feels, was largely due to the harmony among local basketball bodies.
“The (Philippine Basketball Association) and the (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) have better relations. Everybody’s on the same page. And I think that’s the most important thing—being on the same page, that everyone supports Gilas to succeed,” he said.
Asked about the Filipinos’ odds in the World Cup slated in China late in August, Toroman said he feels that Gilas is capable of pulling off surprises.
But Monday’s tuneup wasn’t enough to be an indicator of the Filipinos’ chances in the global meet.
“This game cannot show much because they are not practicing every day,” he said “It’s very, very difficult to judge. But you know, they have great shooters. And with (Andray) Blatche, the team could stretch the floor. That makes them a very, very competitive team as they have quickness and are very aggressive.”
The mentor, who guided Iran to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and is set to guide Mighty Sports later this week through the Jones Cup, doubled down on his optimism.
[Anything] is possible. I think the Philippines can surprise,” he said. “European teams [are] on a higher level than Asian teams. But whenever you play, you already have a chance to win,” Toroman added.
“I don’t think that anybody will be disappointed if the Philippines is [unable to] reach the next round because the competition there is really tough.”
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