No SEABA overkill for Gilas Pilipinas

Inquirer Libre - Davao - - SPORTS - By Musong R. Castillo @musongINQ

THE SOUTHEAST Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) championship ended the way everyone predicted it would: Gilas Pilipinas blowing the field to bits.

With two weeks to prepare for the event, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) brought in its biggest guns if only to make sure that the country progressed to the Fiba Asia World Cup Qualifying’s main draw starting in November.

But with the Filipinos winning by an average of 59 points, counting a 107-point bamboozling of Myanmar, the question in everyone’s mind is: Was it worth the resources?

Another crucial question: Did Gilas give away its secrets for the entire Fiba Asia field to see in a tournament the country could have won with players of lesser caliber?

Tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, the main backer of the Gilas program, was convinced the country made the right move.

“So much was at stake if we risked it (playing with a weaker lineup),” he said after helping award the gold medals to the Filipinos on Thursday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“If for some reason we lost the Seaba, we’ll get criticized left and right. We will be shut out for, who knows, until 2020, 2021?

“That would be very tough for us,” he continued. “We will lose all of our gains. Remember, when we started [the Gilas program], we were 66th or 67th in the world. We’re at No. 27 now.”

Gabe Norwood and Ranidel de Ocampo, vital pieces of the country’s international resurgence, watched at ringside when the Filipinos dismantled Indonesia, 97-64, to formalize their entry to the Qualifying series. Gilas opens its schedule against Japan in Tokyo in November.

“I think we needed the players to get to know each other,” Norwood said. “It’s always different playing actual games in an international setting. The new guys in the team now know how it feels and they needed that.

“Did we give away our secrets? I don’t think so,” Norwood added. “What’s important is that the players got to play together.”

Advancing to the Qualifying proper meant that Gilas will play Japan, Chinese Taipei and world power Australia in six home-andaway games slated until June next year. Finishing in the top three will send Gilas to the second round, where opponents of better talent await.

“We have to keep the dream alive,” Pangilinan said. “Especially if we look at our Under-16 team, there is really hope for Philippine basketball and I hope that I am not being delusional.”

Coach Chot Reyes assembled a new crew for the Seaba, as the likes of Norwood, De Ocampo, Jeff Chan and Marc Pingris have now ended their national tours. In their places are newcomers RR Pogoy, Jio Jalalon, Matthew Wright and Raymund Almazan.

De Ocampo agrees that fielding the best players was the thing to do for Gilas.

“It’s a factor,” De Ocampo said, when asked if it was OK for the rest of Asia to see the Filipinos at full throttle. “But we had to do it, and besides, all of our players can be seen in the PBA anyway.

“It’s still the system [of coach Chot] that will matter when we go to the Qualifying,” he added.

On his way to his car after obliging fans for selfies, Reyes was also asked if it was an overkill. “Not at all,” he said with a smirk.

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