TOP skills coach Kirk Collier sees a bright future for Philippine basketball, especially if young big men Greg Slaughter and June Mar Fajardo can continually develop their games and stand as pillars for Gilas Pilipinas in future international competitions.
Collier, back in the country as Ginebra skills coach after spending five years working in South Korea, believes that the 6-11 Slaughter and the 6-10 Fajardo are the 'future' of the Gilas national team program.
“We’re (workouts with Slaughter) going three times a week, going two hours. But I really think his upside is ahead of him," said Collier, who has been overseeing the individual workouts of Slaughter for over a month now.
Collier is no stranger to Philippine basketball. He first served as Red Bull's trainer from 200-2004, joined the San Miguel group to serve as the Beermen's and Gin Kings' head trainer and skills coach from 2004-2006 before extending his services with Ginebra from 2006-2008.
As he returns from a five-year absence, Collier, 53, is happy to see big men like Slaughter who he hopes would be part of the national team program soon.
"I think in the years to come, I kinda wish he’s in the national team to get the experience, because I just think he and Fajardo are the future of Philippine basketball,” Collier told Spin.ph.
The American trainer said it is imperative for the Philippines to have solid anchors in the middle, more so if you consider that the two most dominant teams in Asia over the past two decades - China and Iran - have dominant big men in Yao Ming and Hamed Haddadi, respectively.
Collier said China dominated at the Asian level due to its abundance of solid big men, with their most recent one Yao, who became the first Asian to emerge as the NBA’s first overall pick in 2002.
China owns the most number of Fiba-Asia men’s basketball championships with 15 over the last 27 editions and has also also won seven Asian Games basketball gold medals over the last 16 editions.
After Yao’s retirement, it came as no surprise to Collier that Iran, led by former Memphis Grizzlies back-up slotman Haddadi, rose to become the champion of the Fiba-Asia men’s tournament in 2007, 2009 and 2013.
“When you think of all the great (Asian) teams, (that’s) because China has dominant size, but when Yao Ming stopped playing, they’re just an average team,” noted Collier, who returned to Manila only last June after working as skills coach in South Korea.
“But Iran got the 7-foot-2 guy (Haddadi), so they are the dominant team,” he added.
Collier said having a pair of players, who are close to seven feet, can easily work to the Philippines’ advantage.
“I would like to see him (Slaughter) play in Gilas. I think he’s 25 (years old), while Fajardo is I think 22 or 23, so the future is in those guys’ development, on how well they develop," said the American trainer.
"Now, if they develop, the (national) team has a really good chance (in the international competition).”