SEA Games romp product of Gilas Pilipinas ‘special’ bond
MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas was all business from day one against Singapore last week to its gold medal romp of Thailand on Tuesday night, but there were also a lot of joking around and laughter shared in between.
All that was a product of the squad’s great on-court chemistry and tight-knit bond off of it the players had built throughout its flawless stint in the 30th Southeast Asian Games despite their limited amount of time spent in practice.
“It’s amazing. We spent I think a month together, a month and a half. And the camaraderie we built in that short amount of time with these guys, we really built something special,” said Chris Ross, one of the elder statesmen who played a vital role on the team. “And to win it here at home in front of the amazing fans and family, it’s really special.”
“Just being included with these guys, who really sacrificed a lot in terms of preparation and time and dedication and sacrificing our roles for the betterment of the team and really giving in to coach Tim’s system, I think this is the most special team that I’ve been part of,” said guard Kiefer Ravena, who is the youngest member at 26 but has the most SEA Games gold medal with five.
Ravena was a late addition to the team after he was tapped as a replacement for Jayson Castro, who was ruled out of the regional meet late October due to an injury.
“We were formed late but it feels like we’ve been playing together for a long time so hopefully we made a lot of our countrymen proud,” said Ravena, who won his first SEA Games gold in 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Eight of the 12 players on the team as well as head coach Tim Cone had never won a SEA Games gold medal until Tuesday.
The 35-year-old Tenorio, for all his accolades and his vast experience playing in the international stage, was among the first-timers.
Tenorio, the MVP of the 2012 Jones Cup, was an integral part of the national team that claimed the silver medal in the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship in Manila and booked a ticket to the 2014 World Cup in Spain.
But for the Ginebra playmaker, the SEA Games squad ranks among the top of his list as far as the best team he’s been a part of.
“This team is special. I think aside from the 2014 World Cup team, this team is very special also because this team is full of superstars who came together and each one of us set aside our egos. We’re very unselfish with what we’re able to accomplish. We never tried to be better than the other which is our goal,” Tenorio said.
“This team will be remembered for sure even though people would say it was automatic that we won the gold because it’s just the SEA Games. It’s not about that. It’s about being special as a group and being a part of this group.”
That unselfishness and willingness to fully embrace their roles led to thorough domination.
“The chemistry in this group is really strong. They looked out for each other, they care for each other. What I like most about this group is no one tried to be the star. No one tried to outshine their teammates. Everybody worked together and they were just so unselfish,” Cone said.
“It starts from June Mar, June Mar (Fajardo) is one of the most humble, unselfish players I’ve worked with in my career. Chris Ross is such a great leader, he had great moments in this tournament, you can tell he was really excited playing for the country, it’s his first time. I can go on and on about it but bottomline is these guys deserve all the credit.”