THE country’s famous beaches haven’t escaped even the attention of retired NBA All-Star Andrei Kirilenko.
The 37-year-old Russian-American, who is now the head of the Russian Basketball Federation, inquired about the various beaches in the Philippines through counterpart Al Panlilio during the recent 1st FIBA World Basketball Summit in Xi’an China.
Kirilenko, the athletic, 6-foot-9 forward selected by the Utah Jazz in the first round (24th overall) of the 1999 NBA draft, approached Panlillio during a break in the two-day cage summit to ask about the scenic beaches in the country.
The president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) gladly invited Kirilenko, known as AK-47 during his playing years, to come over and be the guest of the basketball-loving Filipinos.
Kirilenko and Panlilio were part of a basketball panel, that also included Antti Zitting, president of the Finnish Basketball Federation, which were invited during the summit to talk about effective basketball strategies covering the role of national federations, schools and colleges, expectations on government, achieving the best Return of Investment, and the development of young pro players.
“Basketball brings our country together,” said Panlilio during the panel discussion as he talked about the state of the sport in the country.
“Basketball is not just a sport, it is a religion,” he added. “It is the only sport that most Filipinos follow. Other sports actually complain that they don’t get support and funding, but that is being addressed.”
Despite the sport’s popularity here, Panlilio said there are still a lot to improve on every facet of it.
“Our focus is not just on 5x5, the federation is als looking at 3x3, we are also developing a string program to strengthen our women’s basketball, our youth development has seen great strides as evidenced by our inclusion in the U-19 World Cup next year,” he said.
Participants in the summit led by FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann and NBA commissioner Adam Silver were all looking forward when the Philippines hosts the 2023 World Cup together with Japan and Indonesia.