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PHL changes heart, to field cagers in Asian Games in Indonesia

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By EDDIE G. ALINEA | Sports Editor & Columnist


(Photo from Instagram | @coachot)


MANILA – The Philippine team will compete in the Asian Games in Indonesia after all.


Nearly two weeks after controversially withdrawing its participation in the Asiad, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) formally said that it will send a squad to Jakarta for the quadrennial meet.


As expected, the key players of Rain ohine will make up the bulk of the national team lineup to be coached by current NLEX mentor Roseller Yeng Guiao. Caloy Garcia, ROS' chief gaffer, will serve as Guiao's associate.


"Kasama po rito si Maverick Ahanmisi, Chris Tiu, Gabe Norwood, James Yap, Beau Belga, at si Raymond Almazan," Guiao announced the Elasto Painters' core that will play in the Asiad.


They will be joined by Asi Taulava, one of Guiao's players at NLEX, Magnolia's Paul Lee, San Miguel's Chris Standhardinger, GlobalPort's Stanley Pringle, Blackwater's Poy Erram, TNT's Don Trollano, and Gilas cadets Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero.


While Guiao announced a 14-man pool during a press conference at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City prior to Game 5 of the Commissioner's Cup Finals between Ginebra and San Miguel, he added, "We will cut that down to 12 before we leave."


Daily practices, according to Guiao, will begin on Monday night at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City and will go full throttle when the team heads to the Indonesian capital on Aug. 14.


Philippine Olympic Committee president and Philippine Basketball Association board chairman Ricky Vargas assured, "Hindi lang [ito]team but it's going to be a competitive team. We promise our basketball fans that we're not only sending a team but we're also sending a team that they will be proud of." 


Presidential assistant Christopher Lawrence Bong Go said Gilas and the rest of the Philippine team that will go to Jakarta and Palembang for the quadrennial meet will have President Rodrigo Duterte’s full support.


"Maaasahan ng Philippine delegates sa Asian Games ang buong suporta ng administrasyon ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte. Andito kami para suportahan ang mga manlalarong Pilipino na magdadala ng karangalan sa ating bansa (The Philippine delegates to the Asian Games should expect the full support of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration. We are here to support the Filipino athletes who bring honor to our country)," Go said. 


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 August 6 to start their short but extensive 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 the 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 their 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 quite some time,” 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.  

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