The coveted miracle for Gilas Pilipinas did not happen in the just-ended Fiba World Cup for men’s basketball.
What was the miracle that got away?
The outright ticket for Gilas to the Paris Olympics next year.
We could have clinched it had we beaten the Dominican Republic and Angola. We were on target to win both games, but breaks got in the way—breaks that were actually avoidable if not for glaring kinks in the run-up to the Worlds.
We didn’t have players reporting for duty on time, resulting in slapdash preparation.
How can we train properly with an incomplete crew?
Injuries hampered full flexing of muscles for 7-foot-3 Kai Sotto.
Jordan Clarkson flew in quite a bit late, disrupting jelling and familiarity issues with his teammates.
Unfamiliar with his NBA (National Basketball Association) style of dishing off blinding passes/assists, our players missed feeds from Clarkson that denied us shots from point-blank range.
Only in Gilas’ Game 5 did Clarkson finally find the glue to make him stick with our homegrown warriors, in the process leading his team to a triumphant rout of China that all but wiped out the embarrassment of a four-game losing streak.
That was more than an ego-boosting win as it salvaged for Gilas a slot in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July 2024.
But looking back, Ramon Fernandez was right. At least one year is needed to prepare for such a global event as the World Cup.
“That’s what we did before we plunged into action in the 1974 World Cup in Puerto Rico,” said Fernandez.
He said they did well there. Coached by the late, eminent, Tito Eduque, Fernandez & Co. that included living legends like Robert Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz, Yoyong Martirez, Bogs Adornado and Manny Paner, among others, won twice and lost several close battles only on bad breaks.
But hey, look: The second chance for a miracle is fast approaching—the Asian Games that begin with Gilas clashing with Bahrain on Sept. 26 in China.
A miracle again is being wished for because, reportedly, only four original Gilas players are left for the Asiad mission: June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson and RR Pogoy.
With eight strangers hopping into Gilas, go figure.
Mission impossible in the offing?