BASKETBALL patron Manny V. Pangilinan said he is ready to pull out his Talk 'N Text team from the PBA to serve as the Philippines' representative in the Fiba World Cup qualifiers starting in 2017.
Pangilinan said tapping Talk 'N Text as a de facto national team is one of the options the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is looking at in the wake of major changes in the qualifiers for the 2019 Fiba World Cup that put a serious doubt on the availability of PBA players for the national team.
“Kung wala kaming makukuhang player, we would like to make the Talk 'N Text team as the nucleus, atleast some of them, for the home and away (qualifying tournament of 2017) and 2019 (World Cup). Yun ang sabi ko,” Pangilinan told Spin.ph on Wednesday night.
Instead of holding continental championships, Fiba will have national teams playing home and away games similar to the qualifiers Fifa stages for the football Word Cup. There will be four international windows during the year where national teams will bid for qualification to the 2019 World Cup in China.
Problem is, at least two of these tournaments will be held while the PBA season will be ongoing.
“This is part of the planning process for 2019. Alam niyo naman starting 2017, ang patakaran ng Fiba is home and away na,” said Pangilinan.
“So two years before the 2019 World Cup in China, mag ho-home and away na tayo. And the schedule is such that it will conflict with the PBA, kaya kailangang planuhin na natin yan ahead of time, so we’re thinking about that already,” added the country’s top sports patron.
If PBA players won't be available for these games, Pangilinan said he is ready to make the 'ultimate sacrifice' of pulling out Talk 'N Text to have its players serve as the nucleus of the national team.
“Sino pa ang gagawa? Wala tayong magagawa eh, sino ang kikilos? Bayan o sarili, sagutin mo?” he said, facing the Spin.ph camera.
“Nothing is final. The schedule of the Fiba conflicts with the PBA, wala tayong magagawa run.”
But Pangilinan insisted the Talk 'N Text plan is just one of the options the SBP is now evaluating in the wake of Gilas Pilipinas' runner-up finish behind China in the last Fiba Asia Championship.
SBP vice-president Ricky Vargas had earlier said they are also thinking of reviving the Gilas cadet program.
“Hindi ko sinasabi na gagawin namin 'yun kasi gusto naming paboran ang Talk n Text, kung sakali lang. If we have to do it, we have to do it,” Pangilinan said.
Getting the full support of the PBA in terms of player availability has always been a problem for the SBP.
In 2013, the PBA board mandated each team to release only one player to the national team, although it allowed other ballclubs to release more voluntarily. On the other hand, the formation of Gilas 3.0 has been marred by the pullout of several players who were part of national coach Tab Baldwin's wishlist.
Asked if he was happy with the support the SBP receives from the PBA, Pangilinan touched on a recent statement of the PBA board vowing support to future national teams.
“Let me just put it in technical terms: Kung ano man ang desisyon ng board ng PBA, binding ba 'yun sa team owners? Is the board decision binding on the stakeholders? 'Yun ang dapat nating malaman.
“Kasi kung hindi naman, eh ano ang ibig sabihin ng desisyon na 'yun, ano ang ibig sabihin ng desisyon na yun,” Pangilinan added, shaking his head.
Asked about the finals heartbreak in China, Pangilinan said: “Tapos na yun, ayaw ko nang isipin ulit. Yung China, we beat them in 2013. And they have a long term program, where are they now? On top.
“It’s (last Gilas team) the best way that we can form under the circumstances, let’s put it this way. Despite all they’re saying about the 2015 Gilas team, it’s a special team for me ... the camaraderie, 'yung kanilang pagsasamahan, napakaganda. Coach Tab Baldwin was able to mold team into a team in such a short time,” he said.
The successful businessman-sportsman also warned that world basketball body Fiba and its officials are well aware of what is happening in Philippine basketball.
“Ang masasbai ko lang, alam nila nangyayari rito. Hindi sila bulag, hindi sila bingi, nalalaman nila if you’re sending the best players or we’re not. Nakakahiya? Kung alam nila, oo. Di ba?” he said.
Watch video of Spin.ph interview with Pangilinan: