By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Following a call from several senators for an investigation over Gilas Pilipinas’ dismal performance in major international tournaments, top basketball stakeholders rallied behind the bid of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to form a ‘super team’ that will represent the country in the 2023 Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) World Cup to be held in Manila.
Prior to this, Senators Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go, Mark Villar, Joel Villanueva, Francis Tolentino, and Alan Peter Cayetano filed Senate Resolution 83, urging the Senate Committee on Sports to “conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation” on ways to support the Gilas Pilipinas men’s basketball team in its performance and campaigns in the international stage.
The five lawmakers are seeking a review of the “relevant laws and policies to ensure the optimal performance in future international competitions.”
However, in what could be construed as a “knee-jerk” reaction, Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes disclosed that plans have already been ironed out to formally clinch the support of stakeholders, who vowed to form the strongest, most competitive national team that would campaign in the prestigious event that the country will host next year.
For one, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has already made all of its players available and will be holding only two conferences in Season 48 to give way for the 19th FIBA World Cup, which is the world’s biggest basketball event outside the Olympics.
Aside from lending its professional players, the country’s premier basketball league will also allow players of teams who were eliminated from the Philippine Cup to Gilas Pilipinas for the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers scheduled from August 22 to 30 (the current year).
“We will have two conferences next season. That’s what we can do to help Gilas,” PBA commissioner Willie Marcial announced in reiterating the statement he made shortly after the PBA board meeting last week.
Even the country’s top collegiate leagues — the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) —also agreed, saying that they don’t see any problem lending their players since their schedules will not be in conflict with the World Cup.
Actually there was already a program to form a national team of the best Pinoy players with Kiwi-American tactician Tab Baldwin serving as head coach and program director, but when the Covid pandemic struck the country, marquee players opted to pack their bags and play overseas, leaving the Gilas program in chaos.
Since then, assembling the country’s best talents has been a problem for Gilas Pilipinas and Baldwin eventually resigned and the federation tapped Reyes, who is also the TNT Tropang Giga mentor in the PBA, to run the program.
The result, however, was very disappointing as Reyes struggled to form a solid team that led to the country’s loss in the Southeast Asian Games as well as the third window of the Asian qualifiers and the FIBA Asia Cup.
All in all, Gilas posted a drab 3-11 win-loss record in their past 14 international games, with all of their victories coming at the expense of India.
Because of the team’s dismal showing, sideliners demanded a revamp of the country’s basketball program, prompting SBP president Al Panlilio to call for stakeholders meeting that aims to realign their goals of a World Cup victory with that of their members.
Coach Reyes disclosed that the meeting went well with everybody vowing to throw their full support to the embattled program.
“We will choose the best possible players who will make the best possible team,” said Reyes in a text conversation after emerging in the hybrid meeting presided by SBP president Al Panlilio and vice president and PBA chairman Ricky Vargas.
“More than talent, (we) will also look into the players attitude and ability to fit into (our) system to make sure that they will be able to contribute to Gilas Pilipinas success. That means they should fit the system as well as each other,” Reyes concluded.