PHILIPPINE Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia isn’t giving up on his call for PBA players to suit up for the national team in the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar.
A week after his proposal to send a pro-laden men’s basketball squad to the biennial meet was rebuffed by league commissioner Chito Salud, Garcia is now pursuing the option of reinforcing the SEA Games team with at least five pro players.
A team of cadet players from the Gilas Pilipinas training pool will make up majority of the cage squad out to retain the gold in the December 11-22 multi-sports event.
“If you get five PBA players with the Gilas cadet, that will be strong enough,” said Garcia, who has been a strong critic of the Myanmar SEA Games organizing committee for allowing the inclusion of medal-rich, non-traditional sports in the event calendar.
Only last week, Garcia batted for a formation of an all-pro team to the SEA Games even though the country has long dominated the sport in the region.
Since joining the SEA Games in 1977, the Philippines had won every basketball gold in the meet except in the 1989 edition.
Garcia’s suggestion, however, was politely turned down by Salud as the SEA Games will run simultaneously with the league’s season-opening Philippine Cup.
But not even that could discourage the PSC chairman from batting for the inclusion of at least a few PBA players to the cage team, saying the meet will only run for about a week, or not long enough to disrupt the pro league’s schedule.
“One week lang naman. Hindi naman matagal ‘yan,” Garcia said.
The PSC top honcho stressed the need to have a pro-backed squad in the SEA Games as he himself received reports that other Southeast Asian countries are already recruiting naturalized players for inclusion in their respective rosters.
“The feedback I’m getting is that there are three or four teams which are already recruiting players,” said Garcia. “Bakit natin isusugal kung puwede namang magpadala ng mas malakas? We can’t take the SEA Games for granted.”
Garcia also noted the importance of winning the gold in basketball, easily the sport dearest to the hearts of the Filipinos.
“Ang importance of basketball kapag natalo tayo, parang balewala na ‘yung ibang sports,” he said.
The Gilas Pilipinas pool of coach Chot Reyes just arrived Tuesday from its two-week training camp in Lithuania as part of its buildup for the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship this August.
The nationals are set to fly to Las Vegas and play against NBA Summer League teams as they continue their preparations for the August 1-11 qualifying tournament to the Fiba-World Championship.
The SEA Games, however, has not been calendared as part of Gilas’ itinerary for the year.