MANILA -- Smart Gilas Pilipinas coach Rajko Toroman has nothing but only praises and gratitude for a team that recently bagged a bronze medal in the recent 21st Dubai Invitational at the Al Ahli Indoor Stadium.

“I am very proud of the players. The sacrifice they have made for the team is something I haven't seen for the longest time. They played with great pride and heart,” said the Serbian coach who also steered Asian powerhouse Iranian National Team to an Olympic berth in 2008.

The 54-year-old professional basketball mentor said despite the fact that the Philippines was "the smallest and youngest team," his wards compensate the lack of height with heart and team spirit.

“We are small, we are young but we have a great heart. We are playing for the country. The intense support of the Filipino community in Dubai was unforgettable,” Toroman said of the national developmental squad composed of collegiate amateur standouts.

Team captain Chris Tiu meanwhile can't hide his admiration for the developmental squad he leads.

“Even if we didn’t make the finals, the lessons learned, the experience gained is something that really can be very useful for us in the future and coming tournaments,” said the former King Eagle and reality show host.

Last Sunday, the GMA network-sponsored team avenged its only loss in the elimination round of the tournament by defeating Jalaa of Syria 107-98 to grab third place honors.

Former La Salle hotshot JV Casio was also adjudged the best point guard of the tournament. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)