What should a National Basketball Program look like? (Part 2 of 2, Grassroots Development and Feeder System)

by: Bong Paredes

featured image by: SBP


In my last article, I outlined the steps I thought the PBA should consider to prepare us better for the next 4 years. For this second installment, I will go through a high level overview of what I believe the SBP should consider. There is no way for me to outline everything without re-classifying this article into a book (which I intend to  write even if it’s unlikely anyone would want to read or publish it).

Though the original structure that I had in mind was a top to bottom approach, I will insert details that might not fall into the desired sequence to provide context to what specific point is being discussed.

Here are the 5 items that SBP should thoroughly plan for:

  1. Structure SBP like a private corporation (if they aren’t already)

To start off, all 5 items I will outline would stem from this first point and no I am not delusional in thinking that I know more than the SBP brass when it comes to running an organization because they have one of the strongest leadership teams in the country. At the same time, one thing that has been consistent since the PBA formed an all-pro team along with SBP’s predecessors The BAP for the 1990 Asian Games, is that no matter how successful or unsuccessful the teams were; we always start from scratch the next tournament. No continuity whatsoever.

The SBP has given us a semblance of that the last 15 years but it is time for us to step it up and create a clearer vision and a program that “ALL” stakeholders from all age groups (including the women’s program and 3×3) can get behind. The first thing is for SBP to create divisions with full-time staffers like age group scouting, coaching development and certification programs and other programs that can be monetized in the future or in the present and create a cash flow (even if it is a negative one for a number of years even) of sorts.

Tab Baldwin’s name keeps on popping up as a possible replacement for Yeng Guiao as the Head coach for Gilas but Program Director is a much better fit as most of the basketball fans would suggest. Filipino fans are also correct in suggesting that anyone that will take the helm both as Program Director and Coach should do this full time and not have other responsibilities in the PBA or any other league.

  1. Create a “Basketball Think Tank”

This group would be a revolving door of basketball experts that would rotate and change based on what the agenda of the SBP is at the time. Is it about qualifying for the next World Cup or Olympics? Grassroots development? Specialized programs like 3×3?

The SBP does this for sure but formalizing and treating it like a Quarterly or Monthly Business review with actionable items and project managers to quantify a linear progression of everything would be great.

They are under no obligation to disclose these things to the public of course. This is something that is happening already albeit in an informal manner whenever we have coaches’ conventions like what the SBP just did earlier this year when Coach Tab brought coaches from all over the world. Coach Chot Reyes also left no stones left unturned when he was in charge as he sought out the best coaches in the world to give Gilas the best chance to win in 2014.

Putting all these things together on paper and having a proper de-brief of previous competitions that includes all the advanced scouting and reviews post tournament will make our teams better equipped months and years before the qualifiers even start. It also gives the coaches and the players some continuity which is something all the best teams in the world have in spades.

Just look at a country like Serbia. Sasha Djordjevic’s departure as head coach hardly puts a dent on their program because it’s more than just the coach or the current players, it’s a result of a decades long program that we should emulate which brings me to the next item which is for SBP to….

  1. Create “The SBP Institute”

This will be the most ambitious and costly item on this list and there are a couple of reasons why. First, this is going to be structured somewhere along the lines of AIS in Australia and IMG in the US. Just like in any academic institution, there will be scholars for exceptional athletes in a particular age group but if you aren’t a scholar, parents can enroll their kids to ensure world class instruction and development for a fee similar to any basketball camp which this program will be the Black Belt version of.

This is going to be a boarding school type of format similar to IMG and Point Guard College or PGC in the United States.  These programs will fall under a bigger umbrella which is similar to Canada’s LTAD or long term athlete development program (a different program altogether that deserves its own article).

Of course all of these player development programs will be for naught if we don’t level up our coaching at all levels and that is the second reason.

A number of different coaching curriculums should be furnished together with a national certification program. This aids in assuring that every age group across the country are given top notch standardized development. Any sub section of basketball coaching like Scouting, Assistant Coach program, 3×3, Age group and gender specific coaching techniques, LTAD and physical development coaching, Skill development etc. should have a dedicated curriculum. We can look at Pro Scout School in the US and Euroleague’s Mastermind Coaching from years’ past as a point of reference.

Photo by: Euroleague Basketball

Both programs for coaches and players will pay off massively in the next 15 to 20 years like it did for Canada and Australia. Both countries teeming with NBA players with some that can’t even make their own national teams due to limited spots. Both programs can also be monetized to generate some cash flow as stated earlier. It will also lend more credence into itself once we start performing better in international competitions especially with the young age groups.

These programs are not intended to supplant the entrepreneurial endeavors of former players and coaches to conduct basketball clinics and camps for a day or two. It is intended as advanced programs if a child or parent has higher aspirations than purely recreational reasons to play or coach in the sport.

  1. Repurpose NBTC

I’m not entirely sure what the relationship between the NBTC and the SBP is but the reason I included this is the fact that the NBTC already has some sort of structure and regional directors for where they are responsible for. If this structure is going to work under the direction of say the SBP Institute, we can do something similar to what Spain is doing. The Spanish Federation is aware of all of the best players in all age groups for both boys and girls and they get to keep tabs on the development of these kids.

With this structure, the SBP should have a basketball profile or a dossier on each kid in every age group as far as their strengths, weaknesses, ceiling both height and potential and how they will fare in the kid’s age group 2-3 years from today. In that way, they will serve as a pool that will comprise the feeder program for all of age brackets in youth competitions. This was and is the way the Spaniards, Lithuanians and Argentinians got to their golden age of basketball players and how they continue to churn out high level basketball players to date.

With all of these data at the disposal of the SBP Institute at all times, it will give us the ability to create a funnel of players that can and will be available for any tournament.

  1. Extend the “NBTC” reach internationally

One of the main pain points for Filipino basketball fans is FIBA’s passport rule that deem players with Filipino lineage born outside the country ineligible to play as a local if they fail to obtain their Philippine Passport before they reach 16. This rule disqualifies a dearth of talent that can raise our national team’s level of play instantly. If we can reach out to the Filipino communities in all of the hotbeds of basketball talent in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia, we can cast a wider net and have a bigger pool of talent to choose from for international competitions in all age groups.

We have to give SBP credit for identifying talent overseas before they hit 16. Players like Matthew Wright, AJ Edu and Dalph Panopio are prime examples of their due diligence. The challenge with some of them is that the parents of these kids are part of the working class (which is why they migrated to another country to begin with) and do not have the time and means to drop everything for weeks or months just to go to the Philippines and secure a Philippine passport for their kids. Working with the DFA to make Filipinos based overseas acquire a passport will go a long way in closing this gap. Easier said than done as this requires cooperation from a government agency like the DFA but it will go a long way if put into place.

Standhardinger, Clarkson and Pringle would have given us more firepower and       versatility had they been able to play as locals in FIBA Competitions                             Photo by: Pinoyboxbreak.com

I’m sure there are thousands of fans like me that are still thinking about how we would have fared if we had the likes of Stanley Pringle, Christian Standhardinger, Stephen Holt, Mikh McKinney, and Jordan Clarkson in China alongside Fajardo, Perez, Blatche. We’ll never know now, but if we can help ensure that future generation of players and fans alike won’t need to ask these “what if” scenarios and just have the best talent available, why wouldn’t we?


These items are not an end all be all but it gives us the chance to take responsibility of the development of our players instead of heaping them on to the school system which is what we have been doing for the last 50 years at the very least. It’s a model that we followed from the US and it has served us well for a long time and to a certain degree it still does. At the same time, we have to continue to adapt and re-invent our basketball program. Be open to utilizing all of the best practices that successful basketball countries from all over the world and integrate them with our style of play and passion for the game.

I’m also aware how it will disrupt all basketball leagues in the country like the PBA, UAAP, NCAA and Cesafi to name a few and that The SBP Institute will definitely “compete” with the recruitment program of the schools at every level if a program is rolled out carelessly, but I believe there is a way to make things work for all involved in varying degrees.

Some of the certification programs outlined above, along with the international scouting for Filipino talent and passport granting could potentially attract corruption and red tape. But with careful planning and implementation, all of these things can be achieved and I believe the SBP will be up to the task as they have consistently shown us since they brought us back from FIBA suspension back in 2006.

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