FORMER national coach Rajko Toroman said the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila will be a 'challenge' for the Philippines, but insisted it's the best time for Gilas Pilipinas to 'shock the world.'
“If there is one moment that the Philippine will shock world basketball, this is it," said the Serbian coach when asked by Spin.ph about his thoughts on Gilas' campaign in the Olympic wildcard qualifier which Manila will host from July 5-10 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Toroman, the first coach to handle the national team program under the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), expressed confidence that Gilas can overcome the tremendous odds, knowing fully well how rabid the home crowd can be in the Manila tournament.
"It’s a challenge for the Philippines and I believe they can do something, especially that it is going to be played in Manila,” Toroman told Spin.ph while enjoying a morning walk in Belgrade.
“If you are playing in Italy (site of the other qualifying tournament), you will not have any chance to qualify. But it is happening in Manila, so everything is possible. Filipino players,play 30 to 40 percent over their limit whenever they play in front of their countrymen,” he added.
“You just have to prepare and everybody (in the team) must believe that anything is possible.”
Toroman, however, admitted that Gilas has drawn the toughest bracket from the three qualifying tournaments, saying France, Turkey and Canada are among the toughest teams in the field. New Zealand and Senegal complete the Manila cast.
“It’s very difficult, France and Turkey are really high-level teams," he said. "But the Philippines will always have their chance."
Reports coming out of France said NBA superstar Tony Parker will likely not play in the coming Olympic qualifiers, Toroman said. But with or without the Spurs star guard, the Serbian coach expects Gilas to overachieve like it did in the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Seville, Spain.
“Tony Parker will miss the Olympic qualifier, so that means he will not play, so that’s good news for the Philippines. But it will be very tough still, but during the last world championships, Filipinos showed that they are very competitive and they gave everybody a hard time,” he said.
“I strongly believe that the Philippines will have a chance, it will be tough as its players will go up against six to seven NBA players, but I really hope the Philippines will go to the Olympic Games, and I am hoping,” added the former Barako Bull mentor.
Listen to Spin.ph interview with Rajko Toroman: