I GREW up in Sitio Kawayan in Barangay Sambag 2, Cebu City where basketball, aside from “Dayon-dayon Volleyball,” was a favorite. When the fence of the old Cebu TB Pavillon was breached due to neglect and informal settlers began apportioning the vacant lot at the back of the facility for themselves, the people made sure that a “Dayon-dayon” space and a basketball court would be allocated. The “Dayon-dayon” space has since been gone and the basketball court transformed into a basketball gym.
One time, a group of outsiders went to the basketball court for a three-on-three game with local players. The usual practice was for the locals to form an instant team to battle the visitors. The members of the team usually were the ones with money to bet, aside from their being the more daring ones even if they were not necessarily the best players in the village.
After one game, it became apparent that what the locals were up against were no ordinary visitors. They played the game with such finesse and precision many were convinced they have been together for years. No way could a local team formed in a jiffy defeat such an opponent, even if it got physical, which it did. I was reminded of that game when I watched Gilas Pilipinas lost to South Korea, 118-86 yesterday morning in the 2017 Fiba Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon.
For a while, Gilas Pilipinas raised our expectations when it swept Group B, defeating China, Iraq and Qatar in the process. But those wins actually masked Gilas’s inadequacies as a team. It was only when they met the Koreans that those inadequacies were exposed. The Koreans’ “surgical precision” both in offense and defense, to use a basketball analyst’s term, was evident in the game and that contrasted heavily with Gilas’s lack thereof.
Before Gilas joined the William Jones Cup in Taipei, Taiwan last month, I heard a report by Chino Trinidad in a GMA radio newscast about the formation of the Philippines men’s basketball team (Gilas Pilipinas). His side comment, about the team being fully constituted only a couple of weeks before an actual tournament caught my attention. Trinidad, former commissioner of the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL), has long been a critic of such a setup.
We are actually copying what is being done in the United States where they borrow players from the National Basketball Association (NBA) to compose the US team for the Olympics. In our case, players that compose Gilas Pilipinas are borrowed from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) for important tournaments abroad. More often than not, the team is formed in a jiffy, although to be fair this has been the setup since the country began forming teams for international tourneys.
Yet years ago, when the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) was finally recognized by Fiba over the problematic Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP), the hope was that a better way of forming a basketball contingent for important tournaments abroad would be put in place, one that would ensure a longer tenure for its players to develop into a true team. That didn’t happen. Thus, we again relied on individual efforts (in this case that of Terrence Romeo) against a well-oiled Suth Korean team.