FREDDIE Webb, a member of the last Philippine men’s cage team to compete in the Olympics, believes Smart Gilas-Pilipinas 2.0 is one big guy away from becoming a major force in Asian basketball again.
The former Olympian said the Nationals need one more dominant player in the middle to complement 6-foot-11 naturalized player Marcus Douthit. Otherwise, the composition of the team in the other positions is more than good enough for it to be competitive.
“Get a guy in the middle kapalit ni Douthit. Makakuha pa tayo ng isa nun, then we will be more of a team to reckon with (than other teams),” Webb, now 69, told Spin.ph when asked about his observation of the current national team under coach Chot Reyes.
Webb, dubbed 'Fastbreak Freddie' during his heydays owing to his blinding speed on the court, likes the team philosophy of filling up its roster with players who can hit the outside jumper, guys like Gary David, Jeff Chan, LA Tenorio, Larry Fonacier, Ranidel de Ocampo, Gabe Norwood, and Sonny Thoss.
He said that has been the longtime formula of success for Korea and, of late, the European teams.
“Alam naman natin ang Korea, 'yung Europe. Kung maglaro yan hindi naman puwersahan. Babanatan ka niyan sa labas. Dapat dun tayo matuto,” stressed the former basketball star who became a Paranaque congressman, and later, a two-time senator.
Then again, there is still a room left for one more player whose primary role is to get the rebounds, defend the paint and occasionally provide inside scoring like what Douthit does.
“Once you don’t have a middle, then [a team is] a doughnut. The team that’s a doughnut very, very seldom wins championships,” reminded Webb, who played three seasons in the PBA, and also tried his hands at coaching and acting.
Just like the rest of this basketball-crazy nation, Webb rejoiced when the Nationals won the William Jones Cup basketball championship recently, referring to himself as belonging to the `peanut gallery section’ who served as 'rah-rah boys' along with the millions of Filipino people during the week-long magical ride pulled off by the national squad.
But he cautioned us not to be carried away with the team’s success, saying it will still take a lot more years and effort before the country makes a dream return to the Olympics.
“We’re jumping the gun too soon, “ said Webb, who was part of the Philippine men’s team to the 1972 Munich Olympics along with Bogs Adornado, Jimmy Mariano, Yoyong Martirez, Danny Florencio, Manny Paner, Marte Samson, Joy Cleofas, and the late Ciso Bernardo, Tembong Melencio, Jun Papa, Ed Ocampo, and coach Ning Ramos.
“Let’s not push it too much.”