KOREAN cage legend Shin Dong Pa is convinced Gilas Pilipinas remains a force to be reckoned with in the coming Asian Games even in the absence of naturalized center Andray Blatche.
“In the Asian Games, I think the Philippines will perform very well, but I’m expecting any among the five top teams like Iran, Jordan, Korea, Philippines and China to compete for the gold,” said Shin.
One of the finest shooters Asia ever produced, Shin is currently in Manila for a brief visit to watch and support the Korean pro ballclub Changwon LG Sakers in its exhibition match against Barangay Ginebra dubbed ‘Asian Basketball Showdown’ held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday night.
The 70-year-old Korean deadshot admitted having watched the recent campaign of Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba World Cup including its 81-79 overtime win over Senegal.
And obviously impressed with the way the Filipinos played, he still sees them as a huge title threat in the Asiad in Incheon set to start on September 19 even without Blatche suiting up for the team.
Blatche has been declared ineligible to play for Gilas by the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee (Iagoc) as he failed to meet the required three-year residency among naturalized players.
“I also watched the game of the Philippines against Senegal, and I do understand why everybody (Filipino fans) was celebrating it, because Filipinos have the skills to win. The Filipino players, their individual skills are very good,” Shin told sports media through an interpreter, just before the exhibition game.
A many-time Manila visitor who engaged in countless memorable battles against some of the country’s top basketball players in the past, Shin witnessed the gradual decline of Philippine basketball during the 70s onwards.
Still, he is convinced the country is experiencing a renaissance in the sport dearest to its heart as proven by Gilas’ return to the world championship after a 36-year absence.
Shin himself personally witnessed how the nationals led the Philippines back to the world stage following their highly-emotional semifinal victory over Korea during last year’s Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship.
Filipino basketball fans of course, hold fond memories of Shin, who tortured past Philippine teams with his deadly outside shooting.
The 6-foot-2 left-handed Korean is best remembered for leading his team to the 1969 Asian Basketball Confederation (predecessor of Fiba-Asia) men’s cage championship in Bangkok, Thailand, where the Philippines finished third.
Shin put on an amazing shooting clinic against the Philippines that year, torching the Filipinos for 48 points on the way to powering South Korea to a 95-86 win against a Philippine side bannered by Danny Florencio, Robert Jaworski, Sr., Jimmy Mariano, and Freddie Webb.
Another Philippine team led by Bogs Adornado, Mon Fernandez, Jaworski and the late Tembong Melencio denied Shin and Korea the gold medal in the 1973 Asian championships in Manila.