THE man who led the first all-PBA team to compete in a major international competition felt disheartened by the decision of the country’s top basketball leaders to pull out of the 18th Asian Games next month.
Cage icon Robert Jaworski Sr. lamented not having a Philippine men’s team competing in the quadrennial showcase set August 18 to September 2 in Indonesia.
Straight to the point, the 72-year-old senator said it should always be country first above all.
“Dapat Pilipinas (lang), walang ibang storya,” he told SPIN.ph on Sunday.
“Tsaka isipin natin, hindi kami … Pilipinas,” Jaworski added. “Hindi kami … Pilipinas. Yun lang ang sinasabi ko.”
On Thursday night, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) announced its decision to withdraw from the Asiad despite the PBA offer to have a Rain or Shine side coached by Yeng Guiao fly the the flag in Indonesia.
In a press statement, the SBP said, ‘the time and chance to participate in the 2018 Asian Games would not be optimal.’
But Jaworski, whose charisma and fighting spirit gave birth to Barangay Ginebra’s ‘Never-Say-Die’ popularity, was dismayed by the missed opportunity of playing in the same big stage where he steered an all-pro team to the silver medal in the 1990 Asiad in Beijing, just a year after Fiba finally allowed ‘open basketball.’
“Sayang, e. Labing dalawang players lang naman ang kailangan mo. You know what I mean,” he said. “Sayang kasi yung ibang mga aspiring.”
Up until now, the silver medal brought home by Jaworski and his team 28 years ago is still the highest finish by a PBA-backed national squad in the Asiad, a tournament the country dominated early on by winning the gold during its first four stagings from 1951 to 1962.
The team coached by Jaworski was only formed two weeks prior to the competition and was composed of fellow greats Ramon Fernandez, Alvin Patrimonio, Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim, Benjie Paras, Hector Calma, Chito Loyzaga, Ronnie Magsanoc, Yves Dignadice, Dante Gonzalgo, the late Rey Cuenco, and Zaldy Realubit, a last-minute replacement for the hepatitis-stricken Jerry Codinera. Norman Black and Rino Salazar complete the coaching staff.
While Jaworski understands the need to send a competitive roster like the one he had at his disposal, he also emphasized the other aspect by which the Asiad was formed, and the Philippines among its founding members.
“I think what is most important is our appreciation of the international relations that we have through sports which is a very important aspect of a country’s existence,” the Big J stressed. “Kasi doon everybody gets together for the word goodwill and brotherhood.”
“Everybody attends it, participates, and tries to get in there for the very spirit that it has been put together. And yun ang sa akin ang pinaka importante.”