by: Bong Paredes
It’s been a couple of weeks since Gilas’ FIBA World Cup debacle and a few days after three PBA teams underperformed in a field of 12 that included teams from the Philippines, South Korea, Japan and China in the recently concluded Terrific 12 tournament in Macau. The fact that we are part of the aforementioned basketball tournaments at the moment means that we are one of the best teams in Asia (both on the National and Club team levels) because we qualified and were invited (respectively) to be there.
It’s a good thing, right? For the moment yes, but it does not take a genius to see that the teams that we sent in both the FIBA World Cup and The Terrific 12 were thoroughly outclassed. It’s well documented that Gilas lost all 5 games by an average margin of 29.4 points as we gave up and scored 99.8 and 70.4 points, respectively. The only game that was competitive was the one against Angola when Gilas lost by 3 in overtime.
Filipino basketball fans the world over wanted to have something to be hopeful for and with the Terrific 12 just around the corner, we all felt that this was a tournament that will somehow wash some of the bitterness in our mouths left there by the demolition we experienced at the hands of the Italians, Serbians and even the Iranians that we vanquished in recent years.
We had every reason to be optimistic. There aren’t any European or even West Asian teams here so it’s a more level playing field even if some of the top players from our teams can’t play, the same can be said for the other teams with FIBA World Cup veterans.
Well, we thought wrong. PBA teams went on a combined 3-5 win-loss mark and only SMB managed to make it to the Final Four. Blackwater’s performance oddly enough was almost identical with that of their National Team counterpart losing by an average of 28 points to Gilas’ 29 and scoring 73 points per game to Gilas’ 70.4. The Elite also allowed their opponents to score an average of 101 points to Gilas’ 99.8.
Club team and national team programs are very different and should be treated differently. At the same time, when club team performance almost mirrors that of the national team’s which is the case here, it shows us something we cannot ignore anymore. The quality of basketball in The Philippines is simply not improving at the same rate as the rest of the world. In the 80’s through the 90’s, we would hear statements from our journalists and sportscasters that while small, Filipino basketball players were pound for pound some of the best in the world.
Coach Yeng Guiao’s comments in a recent Spin article after seeing firsthand how teams from all over the world mopped the floor with our best players just proved that our assertions from 30 years ago no longer rings true.
How our basketball stakeholders respond to these setbacks will determine the trajectory of Philippine basketball in general. Do we embrace this challenge and continue to join international tournaments at the club and national level or will the PBA and other collegiate leagues continue to stand by their “schedules” and prevent our best players from testing their mettle against the best the region or the world has to offer?
It’s time for SBP to draw up a new and comprehensive grassroots development program and I’m sure they are already working on it as I write this. All I ask from my fellow Filipino basketball fans that are just as passionate is for us to exercise patience and show our undying support to our Gilas teams. Senior Men’s, Women’s, and all age groups, because this will get worse before it gets better.