Things We Learned in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup - Part 2

By all intents and purposes, our third place finish in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, China was historic. It was the first time a Philippine team finished on the podium in the biennial event, after all. We finished with a 5-1 record, losing only to eventual champions Iran in the semifinals. We swept the group stage, beating Taiwan, Singapore, and Jordan, defeated India in the quarterfinals, and then pulled the rug from under the Chinese in the dying seconds of the battle for third.

It was definitely a memorable ride for Gilas, and a fitting send-off (yes, I am NOT counting the Last Home Stand farce as a send-off) as the team embarks on a momentous trek to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.

That’s not to say everything was fine and dandy, of course. In each of our wins, even against historical minnows like Singapore and India, we had to grind it out. We generally leaned on fourth quarter runs to get each of our victories, and the team was definitely far from the form it flashed in the 2013 FIBA Asia tournament. This isn’t entirely unexpected, since the team missed a handful of key players and some guys were fresh from the 2014 Governors’ Cup Finals. Conditions were definitely far from ideal, but that didn’t make it easier to watch Gilas commit turnovers and brick its shots on more than several occasions.

Upon reflecting on Gilas’s campaign, I came up with the following points — things we learned from the tournament and can, hopefully, address or keep in mind moving forward. All these, of course, are for the continued improvement of Philippine hoops.

(This is the last of two parts)

National teams past and present!

We need some young blood
When the Philippines sends national teams to continental basketball competitions, it’s very rare that amateurs or collegiate stars are involved. The last time we sent a team to the Asian Games with some college players? 1994 in Hiroshima had Rey Evangelista, Kenneth Duremdes, and Marlou Aquino (Johnny Abarrientos was drafted in 1993 I think)? How about The last time we went to a FIBA Asia tournament with collegians? Man, I don’t even remember.

Sure, the Gilas team in 2011 was a mixture of Talk N Text players and guys who were yet to be drafted in the PBA (JV Casio, Chris Tiu, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Lutz among others), but we cannot really look at those guys and say they were amateurs, right? I mean, at that time, Chris Tiu was already two years removed from college, and the others were in similar states. Besides, by the time they played in the 2011 FIBA Asia, they were already in their mid-20s.

Want to find out which players donned the red, blue, white, and yellow when they were 22 or younger? I did some sleuthing, and here’s what I found out (only for players who were in the men’s national team before turning 23 and starting with the 1990 Asian Games squad):

1990 Beijing Asian Games: Benjie Paras (22)
1994 Hiroshima Asian Games: Rey Evangelista (22), Kenneth Duremdes (20), Marlou Aquino (22)
1998 Bangkok Asian Games: None
2002 Busan Asian Games: None
2007 FIBA Asia in Tokushima: Gabe Norwood (22)
2009 FIBA Asia in Tianjin: Japeth Aguilar (22)
2010 FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut: None
2010 Guangzhou Asian Games: Greg Slaughter (21)
2011 FIBA Asia in Wuhan: None
2012 FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo: Matt Ganuelas (22)
2013 FIBA Asia in Manila: None
2014 FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan: Kevin Alas (22)

That’s 11 different teams and only 9 players moving up to the senior level before turning 23. Take note that I didn’t count the teams in the ABC Championships prior to 2007 because many of those were hastily-formed squads that didn’t really do justice to Philippine basketball.

Why is this important? It’s important because, for our program to have some semblance of continuity, we need guys who have matured through the international basketball system. We need guys who’ve been part of the team since their U16 days. Play in the U16 team, play in the U18 team, and then advance to the men’s team. That’s the way many national programs (most notably in Europe) do things, and it definitely helps as these players won’t need to “adjust to the international game” as much as FIBA neophytes who are already in their 20s.

Here are some good examples of teams that have generally been together since their core players’ youth days:
- Many of Taiwan’s top players (Tseng Wen-Ting, Wu Tai-Hao, Tien Lei, Lin Chih-Chieh, Lee Hsueh-Lin, and Chen Hsin-An are the most notable) have been together since their days as members of Taiwan’s U18 and U21 teams early in the 2000s. Tseng, Chen, Lin, and Tien, in fact, started playing for the men’s national team when they were just 17-18 years old, way back in 2001 (Chen much earlier in 1999). They were beaten badly many times, but they also learned a lot and have become top-tier competitors in the Asian circuit. Many of these guys actually play as imports in the Chinese Basketball Association, with all their efforts culminating in a top 4 finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championships.

- Korea is another great team that has consistently experienced a high degree of success in Asia and has participated several times at the world level (they last played in the 2012 London Olympics wildcard qualifying tournament in Venezuela). Like Taiwan, many of their players come up through the national youth program. I remember 22-year old Oh Se-Keun burning Powerade Team Pilipinas in the 2009 FIBA Asia Men’s Championships. Oh scored 31 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against guys like Mick Pennisi and Sonny Thoss in the seventh place game. He led the Koreans in winning TWICE against the Pinoys. Korea’s roster in 2013 here in Manila actually featured a handful of guys who were 22 or younger, most notably Kim Jong-Kyu (named 2014 Rookie of the Year in the KBL), Kim Min-Goo (named to the 2013 FIBA Asia All-Star Five), and Lee Jong-Hyun (6’9 and then 18-year old who led Korean to a second place finish in the 2012 FIBA Asia U18 tourney).

- Of course, when we talk about continuity, we have to talk about current Asian kings, Iran. Unknown to a lot of people, the core of Hamed Haddadi, Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, Mahdi Kamrani, and Hamed Afagh has been together since 2003 (at couple of years later, Samad Nikkhah’s older brother, Aidin Nikkhah, who died in 2008, was also part of the team and was just as good as his sibling). They didn’t win a lot in the 2003 and 2005 editions of the FIBA Asia competitions (they finished with 8 wins and 6 losses in those two tournaments, placing fifth and sixth respectively), but they stuck together and matured as a team. Eventually, they won the diadem in 2007, 2009, and 2013. They have also won the FIBA Asia Cup twice (2012 and 2014) and have qualified to world-level jousts (the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 FIBA World Championships, and the 2014 FIBA World Cup). Iran’s golden generation will enjoy great continuity, though, as young guns like Mohammad Jamshidi, Sajjad Mashayekhi, and Behnam Yakhchali have had significant experience playing at the senior level, too. 

As for us in the Philippines? Well, many of our top youth players are limited to playing in their respective amateur/inter-school leagues, and they need to secure a gamut of permissions before they’re allowed to don the country’s colors in international contests. 

I mean, when will see guys like Kiefer Ravena, Baser Amer, Kobe Paras, Mac Belo, and Troy Rosario play at the senior level? When they’re in their mid-20s? How about Fil-foreigners who have already played for our U16 teams? Guys like Matthew Wright (Fil-Canadian) and Jordan Heading (Fil-Australian)? Have we moved heaven and earth to entice them to come back?

Needless to say, seamless continuity will remain a dream unless we…

Change our basketball calendar
This is something a lot of local hoop nuts have been clamoring for since the days of the 1998 Centennial Team (or even before that). In the Philippines, basketball, quite literally, never stops. The PBA goes on for about 9 months. After that, we have the UAAP, NCAA, and other collegiate leagues dominating the scene for about 3 months. And then the PBA again. Oh, and let’s not forget how much we worship the NBA from the preseason, regular season, Playoffs, and free agency.

For the media, fans, and corporations interested in marketing their products through basketball, this is great. There’s no downtime. And now that social media has taken over, basketball is practically an endless, 24/7 cycle (yes, that’s meant to be redundant to further emphasize the point).

Sometimes, I feel our obsession for hoops is a double-edged sword. 

This is why I applaud the UAAP’s decision to move the Season 77 Juniors tournament to the second semester. This allows teenagers like Mike Nieto, Matt Nieto, Jolo Mendoza, and Mark Dyke to play in the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships in August without having to choose between their schools or the national team. I hope that, someday, the other amateur leagues can do the same thing. I mean, with the new way FIBA will set its competitions up starting in 2017, we really will need “FIBA windows” for our national teams (on every level) to be competitive. 

I really hope the time will come when there will be no local leagues playing around June, July, or August.

But, if that happens, what kind of basketball can Pinoys watch in those cold, rainy months (aside from FIBA)?

That’s a good question, and the answer is…

To have our own Jones Cup
We’ve had pocket tournaments in the past (remember the one where Mac Cardona gets it on with the Dongguan Leopards?), but those have never been on the same caliber or level of the William Jones Cup in Taiwan.

I believe that, given our fabulous fan base and the resources and political will of MVP, the SBP, and the PBA, we can organize a midyear regional basketball tournament that can rival and even overshadow the Jones Cup. This is especially so given the recent success of Gilas. I mean, who wouldn’t want to play against a World Cup-bound team with the continent’s best point guard and a bona fide NBA center in front of the world’s most raucous basketball fans and inside an NBA-grade arena?

Add a hefty cash prize and, I’m pretty sure, foreign national teams and club teams will be lining up at the door.

Invite Lebanon, which has recently been reinstated by FIBA and is itching to play against other countries. Invite India, whose gung-ho coach is looking for as many opportunities to expose his players to international play. Invite Kuwait, so Rabeh Al-Hussaini can come home and face his Meralco bosses. Invite the Qataris, who are always game to play physical ball with the Filipinos. Invite Stephon Marbury’s Beijing Ducks. Invite coach Rajko Toroman’s Jordanians. Invite the Singapore Slingers. Invite the Aussies and the Kiwis. 

It’s possible, I tell you. And because it won’t be a FIBA event, we wouldn’t have to worry about nit-picky constraints on advertising and marketing, too.

If we have our own version of the Jones Cup (maybe call it the Manila Hoops Classic or, simply, the Loyzaga Cup?), this means we won’t have to bring our local talents out of the country as much because international competition will be coming here instead. 

All these are lofty aspirations, yes, but with some wheeling and dealing I’m sure the bigwigs in the SBP, PBA, UAAP, NCAA, and other stakeholders can pull these off. It’s a long shot, but it’s not impossible.

And when (not if) these things finally come to fruition, then I have no doubt in my mind that the very best of Pinoy basketball will reach even greater heights than they did in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships and the 2014 FIBA World Cup.



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6 Comment

I suggest for PBA to have a schedule of 6 - 7 playdates a week (2 games per play date) in a conference and 3 - 4 weeks of rest in-between conferences. (If PBA still has 3 conferences in a season.)


My suggestion is that apply FIBA rules in PBA games. 10minutes lang and ung mga call pang FIBA. Para masanay sa ganung style ang PBA players.


Valenzuela, as in CAMANAVA?


After WC and Asiad, id like to see a revamped training pool, with lots of youngsters.

Alapag and David are on their way out.
De Ocampo, Chan, Fonacier and Washington will be past their primes in next 4 years (they're all 31+yr olds). Their national team call-ups will depend on their health.

This leaves us to Norwood, Dillinger, Belga, and Castro as the future senior bannermen.
Norwood is probably the most experienced national player, having played from 2007 and 2009 to todays team.

Aguilar, Fajardo, and Lee will still have plenty of playing years in the national team for them, so they're not going anywhere.

This leads us to the next question, how should SBP fill up the vacancies?

In light of these articles, I suggest the team fill up the training pool with younger talents. And "younger" doesn't mean 5 years younger than Alapag.

Gilas should balance its pool with promising players who are in their rookie/soph years in the PBA or the best from UAAP/NCAA.

So names like Ryan Reyes or Mark Barroca or Joe Devance or KG Canaleta are out. Here's just a few names that Gilas should consider to fill up the impending vacancies.

Terrence Romeo March 16, 1992 (age 22)
the closest thing to a Paul Lee. If he was 6'4 he'd probably be in NBA D-League at least.

Kiefer Ravena October 27, 1993 (age 20)

Ray Parks February 19, 1993 (age 21)

Kevin Ferrer (age 20)

Arnold Van Opstal (20?)

Greg Slaughter May 19, 1989 (age 25)

That, alongside a rich pool of
Paul Lee
Junmar Fajardo
Jap Aguilar
Beau Belga
LA Tenorio
Jason Castro
Gabe Norwood
Jared Dillinger
Garvo Lanete
Kevin Alas

will be a competitive training pool that allows continuity without forsaking skill and experience.



and Ian Sangalang December 20, 1991 (age 22)