NORMAN Black justified national coach Chot Reyes’ decision to field an all-pro national team to the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship that begins on Friday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Usually fielding all-amateur sides to regional tournaments, the Philippines is putting its best foot forward by sending a PBA-loaded squad along with naturalized player Andray Blatche to the regional showpiece that stakes a lone berth to the Asian qualifiers of the 2019 Fiba World Cup.
“I think Chot just wants to make sure he wins the tournament because at least there’s something bigger, there aren’t any hiccups, so by sending a pro team, plus a naturalized player, you put yourself in a very good position to win,” Black, a former national coach who paraded an all-amateur side in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta, said.
“He’s always a little worried because he’s a coach,” the Meralco coach added. “We’re always going to be worried.”
“And at the same time, it’s easier for me to say that we have a pretty good chance of winning,” the champion coach continued with a chuckle as he’s in the outside looking in this time after being an assistant to Reyes in the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship.
While admitting the competition in the region has tightened, Black believes the Philippines remains a cut above the rest.
“I’m hoping and praying we can handle the tournament without too much trouble considering we do have a naturalized player and we have some of the best players in the PBA,” Black said. “The Southeast Asian teams have caught up a little bit, but there’s still a big gap between the Philippines and the other teams in the region. I’m expecting a little bit more from the tournament.”
“In the past, we have used … I’ve coached amateur teams with Greg Slaughter, Cliff Hodge, and Lanete, and we won the SEA Games, which is basically the same tournament,” he added, referring to Hodge and Garvo Lanete, his players at Meralco.