Gilas out to regain past glory
THE MUCH-IMPROVED Smart Gilas-Pilipinas team is bent on regaining the country’s past glory in international basketball.
Coached by the innovative Chot Reyes, Smart Gilas looks capable of accomplishing the tough task of winning cage laurels behind its flashy offense, top-rated defense and native guile (abilidad).
Fresh from a dramatic victory in the recent Jones Cup in Taiwan, where it shocked teams from the United States, Smart Gilas performed well in the recent Fiba Asia championship in Tokyo before losing its touch in the semifinals against Iran and in the duel for third place against Qatar.
Leading the Philippines are sweet-shooting Jeff Chan, LA Tenorio, Larry Fonacier, Gabe Norwood, Gary David, Jared Dillinger, Jay-R Reyes and the valuable addition to the team, Marcus Douthit.
Munich Olympian (1972) Freddie Webb, speaking during the recent PBA Press Corps Awards Night, said: “We have to salute these guys (Smart Gilas). What made them good is that they have courage.
“These guys went all out because of love of country. You have a team that is hungry to perform and this team showed it. We became proud again.”
Although they failed to make it outright to the Asian qualifier for the 2014 World Basketball Championship, which Lebanon will host next year, the national cagers can still join the Asian tournament by topping the Southeast Asia Basketball Championship early next year.
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FLASHBACK: The World Basketball Championship made its debut in a wire-encased court of the Luna Park in Buenos Aires with 10 teams competing. N. Popovic of then Yugoslavia in the Yugoslavia-Peru tussle scored the first goal of the tournament.
Argentina, playing before a sea of local fans, eventually won the championship against the United States. The victory touched off a nightlong celebration, the magnitude of which could be compared to the fevered jubilation the country had in its recent triumph in the World Cup of football.
Even then, politics was the bane of the championship. Opponents of the Peron regime, who had found asylum in Uruguay, were using commercial radio stations in Montevideo to attack their political foes.
In retaliation the government of Argentina refused to grant entry visas to Uruguayan reporters and radio commentators. Uruguay withdraw its team from the championship.
The Philippines achieved its historic third place finish in the second championship in 1954 in Rio de Janeiro, where United States won its first title.
It was in the Chile championship, where the two-China issue surfaced. The People’s Republic of China was a member of Fiba since 1936 but it withdrew its membership in protest in 1952, when Taiwan was recognized as the Basketball Association of the Republic of China.
Stormy sessions and intense diplomatic activity ensued as the Soviet Union supported the Chinese stand and forfeited its game against Taiwan, although the Russians were well on their way to clinching the title. Bulgaria also refused to play with the Taiwanese, and the Soviet Union and Bulgaria ended up in the bottom of the final round standings.
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