ALTHOUGH one of the three Fiba Olympic qualifiers will be simultaneously staged in his hometown in Serbia, former national team coach Rajko Toroman bared that he would rather witness how Gilas Pilipinas braves the odds in the tough Manila leg that will be held from July 5-10 at Mall of Asia Arena.
“I would like to come there. I want to come, I like Manila. I want to see how Filipinos make miracles in basketball. My heart is still in the Philippines, I cannot forget those five years,” Toroman said.
“I still follow Philippine basketball and I always watch your games through the internet. I always support your team,” added the first ever coach to handle the national team program under the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
However, the Serbian coach is well aware of the daunting challenge ahead for Gilas, after being drawn with France, Canada, Turkey, New Zealand, and Senegal, describing it as the toughest bracket among the three.
For Gilas to, in his own words, ‘shock the world,’, Toroman hopes Gilas coach Tab Baldwin will be able to put together all the players he wants to be in the team, specifically big men June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter.
“Everybody who can help must be in the team. June Mar, no doubt, and Greg Slaughter. A combination of [Andray] Blatche and June Mar will be very tough. June Mar has improved a lot, I watch him regularly (on the internet) and he has improved day by day,” said the 60-year-old former Serbian national cager.
“Greg has also improved under coach Tim Cone, he has improved a lot. And I think they can be very, very competitive in the tournament,” added Toroman, who also hopes NBA player Jordan Clarkson can join Gilas in time for the Manila tournament.
“The Philippines should form a great team. If Clarkson can play, that’s very positive for them.”
Toroman also noted that Gilas shouldn’t underestimate New Zealand and Senegal, which the Philippines beat in the 2014 Fiba World Championships in Seville, Spain.
“New Zealand is a very dangerous team. They are undersized but Steven Adams, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, can start for the team [and] can add size and power to the team,” he said.
“You have a tough tournament, but like I said, with support from everybody, anything is possible. You can make a miracle and I believe that you can, [but] the Filipinos must believe they can win,” added Toroman.