HEAD coach Chot Reyes is one with his Gilas Pilipinas team in hoping that the Philippines will be bracketed with defending champion Team USA in the 2014 Fiba-World Cup in Spain.
“Yun sana. Maka-bracket sana natin ang Team USA,” said the only five-time PBA Coach of the Year as he looks forward to the Philippines' first appearance in the world championships since 1978.
Asked why he longs to play against a star-studded American side that is expected to be led by Kevin Durant, Reyes said such a game "against the best in the world" will be a priceless experience for his players.
“Wala lang. It’s just going to be a very good experience for the players, to have the opportunity to play the best team in the world in an official league,” said the multi-titled coach.
Incidentally, Reyes was one of the prime movers behind the staging of the Ultimate All Star Weekend festivities in July 2011, when Kobe Bryant and several NBA stars played two exhibition matches - including one against Gilas - at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Aside from Bryant, other NBA stars that took part in the two-day meet were Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls), Durant and Derrick Fisher (Oklahoma City Thunder), Chris Paul (now a Los Angeles Clipper), James Harden (now with the Houston Rockets), Tyreke Evans (New Orleans Pelicans), JaVale McGee (Denver Nuggets), and then Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams.
A World Cup match against the NBA stars would be an altogether different experience, Reyes said.
“Yung dati kasi exhibition lang yung nakita ng ating mga kababayan na game against the Americans,” Reyes added.
His players shared Reyes' excitement:
Gabe Norwood: "It will probably be one of the biggest highlights of my career. Durant, Kevin Love and a lot of up and coming stars would be a great challenge for us."
Gary David: "Aba, maganda 'yun. 'Yun lang makita sa news na Philippine vs Team USA, nakaka-proud na. Paano pa yung mapanood mo ng 40 minutes na kalaban natin sila."
Jeff Chan: "Ngayon pa lang naiisip ko na 'yan. Parang dream come true talaga yan para sa akin … pati sa mga kababayan natin. Sana nga makalaban natin. Pati 'yung (laro kalaban ang) ibang countries, exciting rin. May big names din dun eh."
Beau Belga: "Yun ang ultimate, ang makalaban natin sila. Kung papalarin na mai-lineup, masaya ako. Pero kung hindi ako ma-lineup, magpapa-picture na lang ako. Bibili ako ng DSLR (camera) para malinaw ang picture. Saka sana Spain din maka-bracket natin."
LA Tenorio: "Super excited ako kasi once in a lifetime experience yun playing USA team in a tournament. Kelan ulit naming ma-e-experience yun, di ba? I am really looking forward to that."
Larry Fonacier: "Sobrang excited kong makalaban sila. Kung pwede na nga akong mag Spain bukas, aalis na ako (laughs)."
It was a different wish, however, for Gilas funnyman Ranidel de Ocampo, who is more keen to play host Spain - for an entirely different reason.
“Para maraming nanonood (laughs). Kasi host sila eh. Pero Team USA syempre, madaming manonood. Lamang kasi ng Spain yung crowd support,” de Ocampo said before explaining what his true intentions are.
“Sinakop kasi tayo ng Spain dati, di ba? So gusto ko ipakita na, heto na yung mga sinakop niyo ng 400 years, nilalabanan kayo ng basketball,” he added. “O ayan, naiba ako ng sagot sa mga kakampi ko ha (laughs).”
“Saka hindi ko pa na-experience na mapanood ng hari at reyna habang naglalaro,” he added, bursting into laughter.