PHILIPPINE Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Richie Garcia on Tuesday led the call to beef up the Philippine basketball team to the Southeast Asian Games with pro players from the PBA following the Gilas cadets' harrowing experience in the medal rounds in Singapore.
After seeing an all-amateur team go through the wringer in the semifinal against Thailand and in the final against Indonesia, Garcia said he saw a need to tap professional players to reinforce future national teams to protect the 'most precious SEA Games gold medal' in the country's possession.
It's not that the Philippine team is getting weaker; it's simply the opposition becoming stronger, said Garcia.
“Nakita sa dalawang laro natin na medyo hirap. May kaba na eh. I would rather push for a combination, na dagdagan ng PBA players,” said Garcia in an overseas call to Spin.ph. “I am not saying na mahina ang team natin (na ipinadala). Pero ang katotohanan, 'yung mga kalaban natin lumalakas eh.”
Garcia said instead of an all-pro team, he prefers to see amateur and collegiate stars in the Gilas cadets stable being beefed up by around six PBA stars.
“Sea Games basketball is the Philippines, let’s not allow other countries to steal that from us. Sabi nga nila, matalo na sa lahat huwag lang sa basketball,” he said.
“I would suggest that we should make up a combination of Gilas and some PBA players,” added the soft spoken government official.
Philippine teams have won the basketball gold in all but one of the SEA Games stagings, but the gap has increasingly become closer and basketball officials should act sooner rather than later, Garcia said.
The close calls in Singapore should serve as wake-up call, he added.
“Napapaghandaan na tayo ng husto,” stressed Garcia. “When I was watching the game against Thailand, pinawisan ako ng malamig kasi parang hindi tama. Are we going to wait pa ba na matalo tayo bago tayo kumilos?
“Before we realize it, too late na, matalo pa tayo bago tayo kumilos, we have to make sure. Other countries are fielding their best, why not us too?” said the Bacolodnon. “Let’s not fail our kababayans, basketball is a must-win for us Filipinos.”
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios said the SEA Games campaign may be an eye opener for Philippine basketball, but he insisted there is no need to panic.
“Re-reviewin lang natin yung programa kung paano mag-prepare. Hindi pa naman siguro tayo kailangang mag panic button at this point,” said Barrios.
“Basta ba nananalo tayo, importante nanalo tayo. Management by result. Sabi nila nanalo tayo pero dikit na, eight points, five points na lang? Gusto natin na panalo 30 points ang lamang? Pero di ganun e,” he added.
Barrios said he was not surprised that the nationals struggled as the men’s team was only formed last March.
“Titignan mo kasi dyan calendar and availability ng players at coaching staff eh. Kaya sabi ko nga kailangan nating tingnan ng mabuti in a wholistic way. Ayaw natin ng pabigla bigla,” said the former PBA commissioner.
“Hindi naman pwede yung, ‘O, dumidikit na (ang mga kalaban). PBA na tayo kumuha,” he added. “If there are some concerns that sooner or later, ma-o-overtake-an na tayo, siguro ire-review natin 'yun. Continuous naman ang program natin at evaluation eh.”
Kuala Lumpur Dragons coach Ariel Vanguardia bared other Southeast Asian countries have been putting in the time and the effort to close the gap on longtime regional basketball power Philippines.
“Parang ganun na nga, nagtutulong tulong sila para makadikit sila sa Pilipinas sa basketball. Epekto yan ng ABL (Asean Basketball League),” said Vanguardia.
“Yung Indonesia, nag-training ng ilang buwan sa Taiwan 'yan. Yung Malaysia and Singapore, dito naman sa atin naghasa. So dun pa lang makikita mo na seryoso na sila. Hindi mo na pwedeng i-take for granted,” he said.