BIG Beau Belga has thrown his weight behind the clamor to bring Yeng Guiao back to the national team program.
As fans started floating the name of the fiery Rain or Shine coach amid the furor over Gilas Pilipinas' disappointing performance in the Asian Games in Incheon, Belga was understandably excited.
“Wow, gusto ko yan. Bakit hindi?” said Belga, a reserve forward in Chot Reyes’ team since last year's Fiba Asia Championships until he took a leave of absence for the Asiad to rest before the next PBA season.
The burly 225-pound forward from Gubat, Sorsogon said he has so much respect and admiration for Guiao, which weighed in his decision to stay put at Rain or Shine when he became a free agent last season.
Guiao has had considerable success in the PBA and Belga has no doubt he can be just as successful with Gilas.
“Naging head coach naman na siya eh. Saka experienced naman na siya eh. Kailangan lang talaga 'yung players, yung team buo na talaga para alam na niya huhugutin niya,” he said.
Belga said he believes Guiao deserves another shot at the national team job after the six-time PBA champion coach steered Powerade Team Pilipinas to eighth place in the 2009 Fiba Asia Championships in Tianjian, China.
“Eighth lang siya 'nun. Kasi wala naman talaga siya halos chance para i-prepare yung team niya,” said Belga, who recalled being tapped by Guiao as a practice player during that time.
“Pati nga kami nila Gary (David) nun, kinuha na niya na practice player kasi hindi talaga mabuo yung team niya dahil karamihan ng mga players nun nasa (PBA) playoffs,” he said.
“Madalas pito lang sila, walo. Kaya kinuha na kami nun para makabuo siya ng quorum sa practice,” bared Belga of the team which was composed of James Yap, Willie Miller, Asi Taulava, Arwind Santos, Jayjay Helterbrand, Mick Pennisi, Japeth Aguilar, Sonny Thoss, Kerby Raymundo, Jarred Dillinger, Gabe Norwood, Cyrus Baguio and reserves Ryan Reyes and Ranidel de Ocampo.
Belga said Guiao's style suits the national team since it takes advantage of Filipino players' quickness to make up for our lack of height.
“Running game din kasi si Coach Yeng, 'yun ang bumubuhay sa amin sa Rain or Shine. Kasi hindi naman ganun kalaki ang team namin. Same set-up rin 'yan sa international, kasi maliit tayo,” he said.
The former Philippine Christian University stalwart pointed to one major facet of Guiao’s coaching which he thinks can be an asset to the national team.
“Yung adjustment niya sa mga crucial stretch, dun ako hanga sa kanya. Magaling gumawa ng play 'yun. Siya kasi pagdating sa crucial, kung sino yung talagang nararamdaman niyang may magagawa, yun hinahanap niya,” he said.
“Saka hindi binabago yung sistema sa crucial (stretches). Kung ano yung andun, kaunting adjustment lang. Kung ano yung play naming sa inbound, sa sideline, sa baseline, yun na yun. Magkakaroon lang ng panibagong itsura."
Asked to comment on Guiao’s refusal to be considered for the Gilas job, Belga said he understands the situation of his coach.
“Mahirap din kasi sa part nya. Marami kasing ginagampanan 'yung tao. Hindi mo rin siya masisisi. Yun din kasi iniisip niya baka hindi na niya magampanan yung kanyang tungkulin kung papasukin pa niya yung Gilas,” Belga said.
“Kung tumanggi siya, siguro kagustuhan niya na rin yun. Pero sana hindi pa final decision niya. Kasi kung ako, gusto ko maging head coach siya ng Gilas, kasi alam ko kapasidad niya eh,” he insisted.
“Pero hindi pa naman tapos 'yan. Wala pa naman 'yan. Management naman mag de-decide dyan. Saka andyan pa naman si coach Chot eh,” added the burly Rain or Shine big man.
Belga said he also shared Gilas' pain during the Asiad debacle.
“Nalulungkot din ako. Kasi hindi nila (critics) alam sacrifices nung team. Pero ganun talaga, national basketball team 'yan. Andyan ang mata ng lahat,” he said.
“Kaya nga ayaw ko nang manood ng laro nung last Asian Games. Kasi ang sakit sa loob ko mapanood lalo na pagnatatalo. Kasi close sa akin lahat 'yun.
“Kita naman natin na ibinigay na nila lahat … pero parang sa ibang tao, kulang pa rin. Hindi ko talaga sila pinanood, ang pinanood ko lang ng live yung Korea. Yun pumukpok rin tayo, hanggang sa dulo lumaban,” Belga said.
Asked to choose between Reyes and Guiao, Belga broke into a laugh.
“Bahala ka. 'Wag ako tanungin mo dyan (laughed). Hindi ako (laughed),” he said.
However, Belga acknowledged that he would not be the player that he is today had Guiao not taken a chance on him and took the former bench-warmer under his wings at Rain or Shine.
“Malaki talaga utang na loob ko kay coach Yeng. Wala ako ngayon kung hindi siya nagtiwala sa akin, kung hindi niya nakita potential ko noon,” said the former journeyman.
“Iba kasi maghasa ng talent at saka maglabas ng tapang mo si coach Yeng. Saka hindi siya yung uri na papagalitan ka sa game, sisigawan ka. Pero hindi ka niya sisisihin.”
For podcast of interview with Belga, click here: