BASKETBALL legend Ramon Fernandez believes keeping the young core of the Gilas Pilipinas team will be to the benefit of the country’s campaign in the Fiba World Cup two years from now.
Not that he’s disregarding the significant help PBA players could offer to the national team, but the 67-year-old Philippine Sports Commissioner said it would be better to just focus on working on the cohesion and chemistry of this same unit that just completed a six-game sweep of all its games in the qualifiers for the Fiba Asia Cup.
“Palagay ko itong mga bata na ang ipadala natin. Not for anything else but this is thinking long term,” stressed the four-time PBA MVP in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum online edition on Tuesday.
“Yung mga bata natin pag i-expose natin sa ganung level ng competiton, siguradong mag-iimprove yan. Yung mga PBA playes naman, mag-iimprove din sana sila, but hindi kagaya ng improvement ng mga kabataang ito,” added the lanky 67-year-old sportsman considered one of the greatest Filipino basketball players ever.
"Medyo may katigasan ang buto at muscles ng PBA players natin," Fernandez said in jest.
A many-time national team member in the past, 'El Presidente' said the practice of putting together a Philippine squad composed of PBA players who will train together for just a short period and play in a major tournament is no longer practical at this point in time.
It had happened before, and its recurring once again.
"We know for a fact and we experienced already, na mahirap kumuha ng athletes from the pro ranks to play in the national team. That's why lagi kong sinasabi noon, kaya nga nag-umpisa yung PBA because nung panahon namin, kinukuha kami ng basketball federation at that time (BAP) from our mother teams. So nadi-distract yung calendar ng MICAA (Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association) at the time," recalled the PBA's all-time leading scorer.
"History will repeat itself. It seems we never learned from history. Yun ang naging problema."
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin, who is also program director of the men's national team, instead assembled a young crew of players both from college and those selected by PBA teams in a special Gilas draft, to make up the roster of the unit that went undefeated in the entire three windows of the qualifiers, including a perfect 3-0 slate in the Clark bubble.
The same players have resumed their training in Pampanga as they prepare for their campaign in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia next week.
Fernandez said its imperative for the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to make sure the team remains intact going to the country's hosting of the World Cup two years from now, given the potential shown by this latest batch of Gilas Pilipinas.
"This is a better tact na ginawa ng SBP. Na yung kabataan natin na future basketball players para mag-improve din talaga yung quality (natin)," he said, adding the cage federation should have done it a long time ago.
"I'm glad that finally, these young boys are given the chance to represent the country. It's good for them, for their future, and their careers."
Incidentally, Fernandez was part of the last Philippine team that won back-to-back games against South Korea during the 1971 and 1973 ABC Championship (now FIBA Asia Cup), respectively, including the gold medal play against Shin Dong-pa and the Sokors in the Manila edition of the meet 48 years ago.
We are now on Quento! Download the app to enjoy more articles and videos from SPIN.ph and other Summit Media websites.