AS much as he loves Philippine basketball, American coach and Memphis Grizzlies scout John Todd Purves is honest enough to admit he has not seen a Filipino player good enough to play in the NBA right now.
“If there is any Filipino player I can see playing at that level, I’d be the first to bring him there (NBA),” said Purves, currently the coaching consultant of Petron Blaze in the PBA.
“I’ve been observing all the games in the PBA. But there’s no one in particular I am trying to bring to the NBA right now,” added the amiable Petron official.
A former video researcher for the Sacramento Kings, the 41-year-old Purves acknowledged Filipinos have great basketball skills but lacked two major things that may hamper their shot at playing in what is universally regarded as the best basketball league in the world.
Height and strength.
Purves reiterated the NBA is a very different league, totally diverse from the PBA, and even from competitive events such as the FIBA-Asia Championship and the Fiba World Cup.
“(China's) Yao Ming had success (in the NBA) because of his sheer size. Other than that, we have to have players who can bang against the wall. That strong and, of course, the player should have athleticism and skills,” added Purves.
“In the NBA, there is a premium they put on weightlifting. And that is quite yet to catch on in Asia. Players here should have to be physically strong to compete against NBA players,” he added.
From among the Filipino players he has seen so far, Purves acknowledged Japeth Aguilar has the best shot at making it to the big league given his size and athleticism.
But the 6-9 Ginebra slotman still needs to grow stronger and develop his skills set, Purves added.
“No doubt, Japeth is the most athletic in the PBA. He is a very good player. I like him a lot. But he will need more experience and again - strength,” said the American, who steered the Indonesia Warriors to the championship of the Asean Basketball League last year.
“Japeth’s athleticism is closest to the NBA. But there are a lot of players with Japeth’s size who are strong and physically tough in the NBA,” added the former Monterey Peninsula College coach.
Asked if Aguilar, at age 26, still has time to make it to the big league, Purves answered in the affirmative.
“Yes. He’s 26. He’s still pretty young. He still has time.”
“If Japeth will develop his strength and skills set (ability to handle the ball and shoot), certainly, the sky is the limit for him,” said the former coach at the Sacramento State University.
As for Jason Castro?
“For Gilas Pilipinas, he (Castro) was outstanding. He did some amazing things out there, but size will be a challenge for him in the NBA level,” said Purves.
“I believe Jayson, with how he played last time, will surely make heads turn in the coming World Basketball Championship,” stressed the American. “To be in the NBA, size will be an issue for him.”
Purves also took notice of two-time UAAP MVP Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and Petron rookie big man June Mar Fajardo as among those whom he believes have a shot at making it to the NBA "if developed and toughened enough."
Purves likewise noted his former player with the Indonesia Warriors, Fil-American Stanley Pringle, is capable of realizing the NBA dream.
“I think right now, Stan has the ability to play in the NBA D-League. The problem is, he is only 6-1. And that’s not particularly tall in the NBA,” he said.
“Pringle is a D-League type of player. But how he makes it to the next level remains to be seen,” Purves added. “But his commitment to his day-to-day improvement is what brings him closer. He has the work ethic, he is in the gym most of the time – every day.”
The amiable coach is aware not all people will understand or appreciate his thoughts on the matter.
“Honestly, I love the Filipinos. I love their passion for basketball. I am just giving my honest thoughts. And hope that it will become sort of motivation for the players,” he said.
“I want to give as much credit as possible to the players, but at the same time, I don’t want to start giving people false hopes.”
Purves, however, said a Filipino will inevitably find his way to the NBA some day given the tremendous interest in basketball at the grassroots level.
“I am amazed that everywhere I go here in the Philippines, I see people of all ages, girls and boys, playing basketball,” said Purves, who has stayed in the country for just two months. "But putting a time frame (to it) will be difficult right now.”