That is what Gilas Pilipinas ended up with at the FIBA World Cup in China. There should not be any shame on it, with it.
In particular for Gilas coach Yeng Guiao who took over the reins only in the middle part of last year.
And there is variety of reasons why he should hold his head up high. He took responsibility for the outcome, no matter how unpleasant, for starters. Such act only comes from men of honor.
But still some people are putting the blame on him. What he has to go through reminds me of one African proverb that goes “where there is no shame, there is no honor.”
Let us recall what coach Yeng brought with him to China.
The team’s composition is not that impressive. Some players declined to join for various reasons. For one, even fellow Cabalen Jason Castro – who was hailed Asia’s best point guard by no less than Fiba – opted out. He cited family reasons.
And talk about point guards, there was no Jimmy Alapag (who already retired), no Terrence Romeo, no LA Tenorio, no Alex Cabagnot, and no Matthew Wright. None of the elite playmakers who could double up as pesky defenders and streak shooters were there.
Not to denigrate from their performances but Keiffer Ravena appeared rusty from an 18-month suspension. PBA rookies CJ Perez and Robert Bolick have had sterling moments as they drove past giant defenders inside the lane. But their inexperience also led to blunders at critical plays.
There was a point too when Guiao had to issue some sort of ultimatum for other Gilas standouts to report for practice with only one of two days left before leaving for China. Imagine a national head coach issuing such warning when national pride was at stake. The formation of the national team also had to deal with schedules of the PBA. Short of saying, there was not enough time for Gilas contingent that will go up against the world’s best to train well.
Naturalized player Andray Blatche seemed to have slowed down. He was no longer that fearsome, strong and deadly as he was in previous Fiba engagements of Gilas. It wasn’t fair though for all of us to lay the burden on him alone. Basketball is a team sport. In order to win, all five players on the court must deliver.
To add to the misery, the designated shooters fared poorly right at the onset of the elimination round. Gilas was bracketed too with very strong teams – Serbia, placed second in the previous Fiba world cup that was won by Team USA. Aside from being ranked number four in the world, its first five players are NBA regulars.
Italy, ranked number 13 in the world standing with NBA veterans Danilo Galinari and Marco Belinelli leading the charges. The only team in the bracket that is ranked lower than Philippines (31) was Angola (39). But still they overpowered Gilas.
It is not an embarrassing finish for Gilas as Team USA, which was expected to bag its fourth consecutive first place finish in the tournament, was eliminated by third-ranked France. This, despite having all NBA players in its roster (although like second and even third stringers). The most feared team was led by two champion coaches – Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr. Serbia also got the boot from.
Now, should we feel bad? No. Should Yeng be blamed? A more definite no. He called the shots with whatever he was given with. He did what has to be done. He did his best.
He may not have won a game but he scored some small victories.