FOR two of the members of the Philippine team that was bankrolled by Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr., the NCC formula had the ideal situation during the 1980s that allowed the national team to become successful.
Jong Uichico said the NCC basketball program under Cojuangco had all the ingredients of making the national team successful, first by putting all the players together for a certain period of time with its only focus are tournaments being participated by the national team.
The NCC program also entails its players to be housed under one roof, creating chemistry and camaraderie amongst each other while preparing for competitions.
It bore fruit, winning several tournaments including the 1985 ABC Championship that allowed the Philippines to qualify for the 1986 World Championship only to withdraw due to the political situation in the country back then.
“The NCC program was the ideal situation kumbaga,” said Uichico on Saturday during the 2OT podcast. “Always ideal ‘yun kasi they had the disposal of every player. Si Allan (Caidic), Samboy (Lim), we had the best of the best. Ang lakas talaga.
Uichico said the talent pool during those days was so enormous that a lot of players were actually part of the NCC program but never got a chance to play.
“Hindi nila alam na pumunta rin si Ronnie Magsanoc, ang daming nagpunta for tryout purposes. They were part of the NCC but they never got to play kasi ang lakas ng team. Ang hirap pumasok dahil kalaban mo Hector Calma and Franz Pumaren. Ang hirap sumingit. It was really an ideal situation,” said Uichico.
Allan Caidic echoed the sentiment of Uichico as the path of the players back then was national team first before going to the PBA under the stewardship of Cojuangco.
“Almost all players, ang dream is to represent the country before joining the pro. ‘Yun ang direction eh. From college, national team muna. Kaya makikita mo ‘yung mga tryouts, pagalingan kayo,” Caidic said in the same podcast.
Caidic described how valuable the experience of playing in the national team before joining the pros.
“Nag-travel kami abroad, kung saan saan. Doon kami naka-gain ng experience. Pagdating namin sa PBA, ripe na ripe na kami because of our experience abroad na malalaki, magagaling. Feeling namin kaya naming makipagsabayan sa mga PBA players,” said Caidic.
Coupled with the program that was put in place by Cojuangco, Caidic said being quartered really made a big difference in building the team together.
“Nag-umpisa ‘yun around 1982 and then recruit lang ng recruit hanggang 1985. Three-year program ‘yun na magkakasama lahat, naka-quarters kami, naglalaro kami international. Parang ‘yung mga players, magkakapatid na kami sa hirap at ginhawa. Magkakasama kami. ‘Yung support ni boss at ‘yung programa nandoon. Ngayon, ang dami nang gumagamit ng naturalized player. Tayo nauna way, way back,” said Caidic.
In the context of the current set-up with Gilas Pilipinas, Caidic said there are some aspects of the NCC program that the national team could also adopt if the goal is to win the Fiba Asia Cup or qualify for the World Cup and the Olympics.
“’Yung programa ngayon ng Gilas, kumpara sa amin, maraming similarities pero ang big difference, mga college players lahat… Malaking bagay ‘yung magkakasama. Medyo magastos lang,” said Caidic.
Uichico agreed that cost is a big difference, but added the leadership of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is still in the right track in trying to rekindle the glory days of Philippine basketball.
“Of course, boss MVP is doing the best he can and of course, hindi natin mapagkakaila, magastos rin talaga ‘yung ideal situation,” said Uichico, who is also part of the SBP Coaches Academy program. “I think boss MVP is doing the best job he can to try to put Gilas back again in the map. I thin boss MVP is in the right direction with the cooperation of the PBA and the right people in the program.”