A day after getting the imprimatur to represent the country in the coming Asian Games, coach Yeng Guiao and members of the Philippine basketball team met for the first time on Monday to start their short but extenive preparations at the Meralco gym in Pasig City.
Only light skirmishes were scheduled, mostly for purposes of designing plays that will be, Guiao hoped, able to master comes competition time as his boys responded spiritedly.
“Maganda ang simula,” Guiao, who is in his second stint as a national mentor following the 2009 FIBA-Asia, assessed. “Feeling ko, inspired ang mga bata. Alam naman natin na biglaan ito at ilan sa kanila ay hindi man mang makakaisip na makalalaro sila sa Asiad representing our flag had it not for the circumstances presently prevailing in th local basketball community.”
PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, one of the people responsible for the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ change of heart from not sending a team to eventually allowing the country’s participation owing to a strong public clamor, agreed.
“Alam mo, dapat nga nating hangaan at purihin and mga manlalarong ito who defied criticism that they don’t really deserve being in the national team,” Marcial emphasized.
“To me, these guys are already winners in the sense that they save Philippine basketball from being in the doldrums had earlier decision to not play in the Asiad pushed through,” Marcial added.
“That’ right,” Raymond Yu, who co-owned the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters franchise with Terry Que, butted in. “These boys saved, too, our relations with all Olympic Council of Asia member countries for agreeing to play in he midst of kantyaw ibibabato sa kanila ng ilang kababayan natin.”
“And for that, I consider them our modern day dheroes, ngayon pa lamang na hindi pa nagsisimua ang Asa Games,” Yu declared.
“Most importantly, we must thank our basketball-crazy kababayans who didn’t stop clamoring that we send a team in a sport closest to gheir hearts, Marcial said. “Our thanks also go to the PBA, the SBP and the Philippine Olympic Committee for heeding the insistent demand from our basketball-loving people.”
Given the limited time to prepare and the equally limited talents available, Guiao said his team has sufficient manpower to perform creditably and decently and win as many games possible that will make the Filipinos happy.
“Out of this pool of players, we hope to build a team composed of 12 men who might come short of coming to the medal podium, but, win the admiration and respect of our people and those of our rivals,” Guiao vowed.
“Sisiguruhin namin sa coaching staff at sa mga mamumuno ng ating koponan na ang mga batang ipadadala sa Indonesia ay makapagbibigay karangalan sa aking bansa at sa pangalang Pilipino kung hindi man medalya, “ Guiao vowed.
“Of course, we’ll try our best to bring home that coveted basketball edal our countrymen have been craving for for quite sometime,” he added. “
All but one members of the team – Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga, Raymond Almazan, James Yap, Chris Tiu and Maverick Ahanmisi, all of Rain or Shine Paul Lee of Magnolia Hotshots, Stanley Pringle of Global Port, Don Trollano of Talk ‘N Text, Asi Taulava of NLEX, Poy Erram of Blackwater and Gilas Cadets Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero – were in attendance.
Only San Miguel Beer’ contribution to Guiao’s selection, Christian Stanhardinger, wasn’t around, attending the Beermen’s preparation for their on-going best-of-seven series in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, now in Game 5.
Another Cadet member, Abu Tratter, filled the void in Stanhardinger’s absence by joining the light, but, inspired workout scheduled for the day that satisfied Guiao, assistant coach Coy Garcia, ROS owner Yu PBA Board of Governors member, Atty, Mamerto Mondragon, and PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, among others.
Before practice began, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Ricky Vargas, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio, Yu and Guiao spoke to the team in a closed-door meeting.
The squad will leave for Jakarta on August 14 before plunging to action on August 16.
By EDDIE G. ALINEA