FORMER national coach Boycie Zamar believes there is still no need to tap professional players to represent the country in the men’s basketball competitions of the Southeast Asian Games.
Zamar said amateur players are still very much capable of winning the SEA Games basketball gold even though other countries have shown significant improvement following the emergence of the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
“Sa tingin ko, kailangan pa rin ibigay (ang SEA Games) sa younger generation,” said Zamar, who piloted the national team to a gold medal in the 2001 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The current head coach of University of the East also served as deputy to Dong Vergeire in the 1997 edition of the biennial meet (Indonesia), to Louie Alas in 1999 in Brunei, and to Aric del Rosario in 2003 in Vietnam.
Zamar has also had a lot of experience coaching in other Southeast Asian nations, handling teams in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore.
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) had batted for the all-pro Gilas Pilipinas to compete in the Myanmar SEA Games this December – a move considered an "overkill" as the Philippines has dominated the basketball competitions of the meet ever since behind an all-amateur squad.
Except in the 1989 SEA Games in Malaysia, the Philippines has not lost the basketball gold in all editions of the biennial meet where the sport was played.
PBA commissioner Chito Salud immediately turned down the proposal, citing a conflict in schedule with the league’s season-opening Philippine Cup.
But concerned about reports that other countries - especially Myanmar - are set to field naturalized players, PSC chairman Richie Garcia has instead asked that at least five pro players reinforce the national squad.
Zamar favors the idea.
“Panigurado lang ‘yan. Remember may mga kailangan din i-consider - ang host country, ‘yung mga referees, at saka one game lang ‘yan, one shot (at the gold),” he said.
“Okay lang ‘yung lima tapos ‘yung pito, galing sa D-League, UAAP and NCAA.”
Still, Zamar thinks an all-amateur team can still get the job done for the country.
“Panalo pa rin. May intimidation factor pa rin. Ewan ko lang ngayon, pero basketball-wise lamang pa rin tayo,” said Zamar.
Yet he also cautions the country's basketball leaders that other countries have also been serious in developing their grassroots programs.
“’Yung junior program nila, mag-start pa lang ngayon. It might be late for this year’s SEA Games, but in the future, hindi natin alam,” Zamar said.