FORMER Philippine team stalwarts Asi Taulava and Kenneth Duremdes believe Gilas Pilipinas still has a very good shot at winning the gold medal in the Asian Games even without naturalized big man Andray Blatche.
The confidence and experience gained by Gilas from the last Fiba World Cup should augur well for the national team’s campaign in the Asiad, said the pair who believe the Philippines remains a force to be reckoned with in the Asiad despite the organizers' decision to disqualify Blatche.
Taulava and Duremdes were teammates in the Philippine team that lost a heartbreaker to Korea in the semifinals of the 2002 Busan Asiad following a buzzer-beating three-pointer by gunner Lee Sang Min.
“Just the confidence,” said Taulava, noting Gilas will be going to the Asiad fresh from clinching the country's first victory in the world championship in the last four decades following its 81-79 overtime win over Senegal.
“I don’t want to make excuses. They won’t give any excuses. They are after results and the gold medal is what they are looking for,” added NLEX's veteran center.
For his part, Duremdes said, “During our time, consistent tayo sa top four eh. Kaya natin, Kaya hindi imposible.”
Duremdes went to three straight Asiad starting in 1994 in Hiroshima where he was one of the few select amateur players tapped for the team by then San Miguel coach Norman Black.
The former PBA MVP also won a bronze medal as part of Tim Cone’s Centennial Team during the 1998 edition of the quadrennial meet in Bangkok.
Duremdes, now the coach of Adamson, said the program of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) under president Manny V. Pangilinan that led to the formation of Gilas has put together a team capable of winning an Asiad gold, which the country last won in 1962.
“Nandoon ‘yung programa. Give credit to MVP. Tuluy-tuloy ‘yung programa nila. Even myself kasi, gusto ko rin makarating sa world stage. It’s every player's dream,” said Duremdes.
Taulava pointed to Iran as one of the teams that will play for the gold medal, but as to which country it will face in the finals he said is a wide-open race.
“I think, we will probably face Iran again. With the experience, I think we can match up really well,” said Taulava, who also played for the original Gilas squad during the 2011 Fiba- Asia Men’s Championship in Wuhan, China.
“We got the silver (in the Fiba-Asia championships) to make it to the world. Why not aim for the gold? It’s gold or nothing,” said Taulava.
Duremdes said this year’s batch of Gilas Pilipinas players is very fortunate to have qualified for the Fiba World Cup under the current program of the SBP.
“Puro Asian Games kasi ‘yung sinasalihan namin. Sayang, we could have experienced the World Cup din. They are our heroes right now,” said Duremdes.