THOUGH he still takes pride on the blueprint his all-amateur Smart Gilas national team provided, Rajko Toroman acknowledged that finding the right balance between professional and amateur players should be the way to go for the Philippines.
"I think the program was great that time. One different way of practicing, one different way of international exposure," he told Coaches Unfiltered.
"But I think in this moment, [it's better to have] mixed players because of these two things, they have to make some young players play in some tournaments who can play outside, who can take some international exposure and international experience; but also when it’s coming time for the result, you need to have the best collegiate players and the best players from the PBA."
Toroman's time at the helm for the national team enlisted some of the top collegiate stars in one team, bolstered it with naturalized player Marcus Douthit, and turned it to a strong and cohesive unit, with its highest finish being fourth in the 2011 Fiba Asia Championship.
When he was released from his job in 2011, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) then turned to the PBA and paraded an all-professional team, capturing silver medals in both the 2013 and 2015 Fiba Asia Championships.
The 2013 squad, coached by Chot Reyes, even made it to the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain, marking the first time in 36 years that the Philippines made it to the global hoops conclave.
Over the years, the SBP has introduced some of the top collegiate stars in the seniors' team, with Thirdy Ravena, then playing for Ateneo, earning a spot in the Gilas team during the Asian qualifiers for the 2019 Fiba World Cup.
Revamping the national team for the 2023 Fiba World Cup here, the federation has already listed off names who it aims to give further exposure and experience alongside their PBA veterans starting in the first window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers last February.
Aside from those college studs who just got drafted, other names who earned consideration in the pool were Kobe Paras, brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, Dwight Ramos, Dave Ildefonso, and Justine Baltazar.
Others, such as Kai Sotto and AJ Edu, are touted to be included in future iterations of the list.
To Toroman, this plan is a master stroke.
"I think this mixed will be the best thing," said the Serbian mentor who now calls the shots for Indonesia. "The program that we started continues, but then it’s coming to the deciding time, I think, that in this period, it’s easy to make teams like this."
The main reason? The stronger ties between the SBP and the PBA.
"The connections between PBA and SBP is much better than in my time, and this is, I think, the best way to give some younger, collegiate players exposure and then, (for the SBP to) make the best team possible," he said.