GILAS Pilipinas shooter Jeff Chan hopes Filipino basketball fans would continue to rally behind the national team as it prepares for next year’s Fiba-Asia men’s championships, which servin as a qualifier for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The left-handed Chan arrived on Thursday afternoon in Manila along with Rain or Shine teammate Paul Lee, just a day after Gilas Pilipinas beat Mongolia, 84-68, for seventh place, the Philippines’ worst-ever finish in the basketball competitions of the Asian Games.
“Siyempre, yung mga fans naman, alam natin siguro malungkot yung iba, galit sila, pero sana maintinidahn nila na ano man mangyari, sana nandun lang sila para sumuporta sa atin,” Chan said, just moments after his arrival at NAIA Terminal 2.
Basketball fans were expecting Gilas to contend for the gold medal following its impressive performance in the Fiba World Cup in Seville, Spain last month.
But successive losses to three-time Asian champion Iran, Qatar then host Korea ruined Gilas’ Asian Games campaign.
And though Kazakhstan’s win over Qatar gave Gilas a small window of hope to make it to the semis, the Filipinos sputtered in their all-important match against the Kazakhs.
Gilas beat Kazakhstan, 67-65 on Sunday, but the win hardly mattered since the margin of victory was not enough to tow the Filipinos into the semis.
The issue surrounding Marcus Douthit’s performance against Qatar and coach Chot Reyes’ decision to bench him for the Korea game also put a dark cloud over the Gilas camp.
“Okay naman kami, after nung issue na 'yun (with Douthit’s benching), naging okay naman, at least, na-open sa lahat at nalaman natin ano naramdaman nila,” said Chan.
The Rain or Shine star appealed to basketball fans to keep supporting Reyes, who he said tried his best to bring home the Asian Games basketball gold.
“Kaya nga eh, naawa nga ako kay coach, alam natin ginagawa niya ang lahat para masaya ang fans. Sana, manalo o matalo nandun lang sila palagi. Huwag lang awayin, kasi para naman ito sa atin,” he added.
For now, Gilas players will be reporting back to their respective mother teams in the PBA as they shift their attention to preparing for the pro league’s 40th season, set to open on October 19.
Chan said should he be asked to don the Gilas jersey next year, he won’t hesitate.
“If tinawagan ako para sa bayan, why not? Basta para sa bansa, eh Olympics na yun, once-in-a-lifetime again,” he said, before leaving the airport.