TAIPEI – In the absence of a full commitment from PBA teams, the Samagang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is seriously considering a return to the cadet program that would have rising stars like Kobe Paras, Troy Rosario, Kiefer Ravena, Bobby Ray Parks teaming up with reinforcements like Andray Blatche and possibly Jordan Clarkson.
Ricky Vargas said bringing back the cadet pool program the SBP started in 2011 under Rajko Toroman is one of the options the basketball body is tinkering with in the wake of the failure of Gilas 3.0 to bring in the players on current national coach Tab Baldwin's original wishlist.
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The SBP vice-chairman said they can no longer rely on a 'volatile' agreement with the PBA with regards to the purpose of putting together the best players possible for the national team.
"We need to come up with a long-term program for SBP rather than rely a hundred percent on the PBA because it’s very volatile," said the outspoken Vargas, the top lieutenant of PLDT boss Manny V. Pangilinan. "Sometime they’re there, sometimes they’re not there. There’s no assurance."
"Ang problema ko we can’t rely on the commitment of the PBA. Hindi lahat. Nagpapasalamt ako sa lahat ng tumulong, but it’s volatile. One day they wake up with full support, the next time partial support, the next time one player per team. So 12 lang yon, kulang pa. Paano kung ang ibibigay mo hindi kailangan, kahit two players pa per team?" The same goes for the players themselves, Vargas added.
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"Iba-iba ang temperament ng hinihingan ng tulong, iba-iba ang temperament ng players. Totoong pagod, totoong nasasaktan at hindi pwede, totoo naman 'yon. So 'yung level of commitment is different also," he said.
"May mga players na kahit na nasasaktan, sige pa rin. Merong hindi. Nakita ko yun kay Ping (Marc Pingris), nakaka-inspire yung commitment nya."
Vargas said among the plans on the drawing boards is a national pool made up of up and coming players, to be reinforced by professional players from Talk 'N Text, other MVP-owned teams, plus other players from PBA ballclubs which wish to help voluntarily.
He said now is the perfect time to revisit a cadet program, envisioning players like Paras, Parks, Ravena and incoming Talk 'N Text rookie Rosario reinforced by a naturalized player Andray Blatche and, possibly, Lakers guard Clarkson who on Tuesday committed to the Gilas program in the long term.
"The best way to do is go back to the cadet program. That’s one. Another thing we’re doing is get the best players to Talk 'N Text and make Talk 'N Text the national team. Kasi walang problema don. Nandon na si (Moala) Tautuaa. I don’t mind saying that. That’s a serious consideration," Vargas said.
From his words, it is obvious Vargas has grown frustrated asking PBA teams for help.
"Nagpapasalamat ako sa lahat ng tumulong, lahat sila tumulong naman. Pero mahirap humingi ng abuloy. To ask for (help), mahirap. If people think we’re getting the best players, that’s our vision. If Talk n Text be good enough to be a national team, it’s so much easier than to kneel down and ask for assistance," he said.
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On the inability of the national team to get players from rival group San Miguel Corp. other than Pingris, Vargas said: "Legitimate ang reasons pero ang sundalo naman 'pag pinapatay na may sugat na, di pwedeng sabihin timeout muna, di muna ako lalaban sa bansa. 'Yun yon."