Former Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman is back helping the national team - in an unofficial capacity, that is.
National Under-18 coach Olsen Racela said Toroman has spent a few practices working with his team as it prepares for the coming SEABA Championships, but made it clear Toroman is doing it in a personal capacity.
“Ang involvement lang niya is because of my request,” said Racela, also an assistant coach of pro ballclub Petron Blaze Boosters where Toroman acts as a consultant.
Toroman’s vast experience in international basketball has come in handy, Racela said, and the Serbian mentor has taught a few plays to incorporate into Racela’s own system.
“We are learning, not only the players but the coaches especially pagdating sa mga international competitions. Kailangan namin ‘yun because we have less time to prepare,” said Racela.
"We need all the help we can get."
The Under-18 team was recently formed for the SEABA Under-18 Championship set July 26 to 30 in Singapore, which serves as a qualifier for the FIBA-Asia Under-18 tilt set in Mongolia on August 17 to 26.
Aside from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos and Singapore will also be competing in the tournament.
The SEABA team culled from the national pool is made up of Hubert Cani, JJ Alejandro, Michael Jay Javelosa, Isaac Go, Paolo Rivero, Remy Nambatac, Mark Olayon, Ronnie De Leon, Kyle Suarez, Mario Bonleon and Kent Lao.
So far, Racela said he has not encountered scheduling problems with the players' respective schools in the Under-18 team's thrice-a-week practices.
It will be recalled that the Under-16 team that competed last year in the FIBA-Asia tilt in Nha Trang, Vietnam had to compete without some key players who were tied down by their commitments with their schools.
“Right now, kausap ko ang NU through coach Junel Baculi and he said that there will be no UAAP juniors games in between the FIBA-Asia tournament. As for the NCAA, we are still in the process of talking with them,” said Racela.