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On Smart Gilas and broken dreams

Tuesday, 27 September 2011 4,116 Views / 242 Comments
Chris Tiu has decided to continue playing for Smart Gilas.

Chris Tiu has decided to continue playing for Smart Gilas.

We have reached the end of the road. After three years of preparation, controversy and hope, the country’s final standing in the basketball hierarchy has been determined.

Fourth best team in Asia.

Although “third runner-up” has a nice ring to it, it still falls short of what was expected. From the beginning, the dream was to either earn a spot at the 2012 Olympics or die trying. After another heartbreaking loss to Korea in the Asia qualifier and with the London games now officially out of reach, it sure feels like the country has breathed its last.

Both that game and the semifinal match against Jordan are too painful to remember, the game recaps too hurtful to read. I readily admit that I cried at the end of both, realizing that these setbacks would only add to the burden that has been weighing down on the nation’s back for decades now.

Any medal would have sufficed, really, because this was supposed to be our year. The year when we would stand triumphantly in the spotlight for all the world to see. But no, the country has once more been cast off to the sideline’s shadows.

But as China, Jordan and Korea were feted as Asia’s top teams and the anguish of being left out again was at its most agonizing, I was struck by an unexpected realization.

For the longest time, the Philippines has been aching to reclaim past glory. For the longest time, the Philippines has watched with envy as teams from North Asia and the Middle East have matured into basketball powerhouses. For the longest time, the Philippines has formulated strategy upon strategy to claw its way back up, only to be struck down again by heartbreak upon heartbreak.

Then Smart Gilas came along. This was the team handpicked to reverse our FIBA fortunes under the guidance of proven winner Rajko Toroman. This was the team bankrolled by Manny V. Pangilinan with no expense spared in the name of achieving greatness. And at the end of the tournament it had labored so painstakingly for, this was the team that etched its place in history as a fourth place finisher with not even a pennant to show for its efforts. Its performance this past week in China has effectively shattered our basketball frenzied nation’s dream.

Despite this seeming failure, I realized that having our age-old dream broken may actually be a good thing. And rather than be chastised, each member of this squad deserves to be welcomed back to the Philippines as a true, selfless hero.

We were all so focused on the prize that we had forgotten how Philippine basketball essentially had to start from scratch. Just a few years ago, our country’s hoops scene was a scattered mess of factions and cliques. We were in fact erased from the global hoops map until the MVP-led Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas was officially recognized by FIBA.

And after the Smart Gilas team was formed, it had to navigate through constant challenge and criticism. Its choice of a foreigner as coach was (and surprisingly, still is) questioned. It got into a big argument with its big brother, the PBA, over some players, while other players and executives moved out. Their requests to allow some of the biggest names of the PBA to suit up for the flag were denied. It dealt with injuries. And up to the very last minute, it had to fight the outrageous ineligibility issue of its key wing men.

Yet, for all the hardship that this team needed to hurdle, it played some of the most beautiful basketball the country has ever witnessed. Ever. When at its best, it ran a confident, fluid offense and disciplined defense seldom seen before on our shores. To make such a giant leap forward and go from zero to hero facing such adversity is nothing short of incredible.

Coach Toroman put it best: only players with big hearts can win under such situations. When put in this context, who needs medals, then? There just isn’t any place for them, what with fighting hearts and a big, bold PILIPINAS proudly crowding the national team members’ chests.

The goal hoisted onto these young men’s shoulders was herculean. With all the useless politicking, some might even say that it was unattainable. But placing fourth was not a failure. Rather, it was a resounding success and a testament to a model that finally works. This isn’t really the end of the road, just a pit stop. The country’s basketball heartbeat hasn’t flatlined just yet, it’s just reeling from the effects of coming up a bit short this time around. And with MVP vowing to continue the fight into “2016, 2020, or even beyond”, hope springs eternal.

To everyone involved with the Smart Gilas team: as you pack your bags and drag your battle weary bodies back home from Wuhan, keep your heads held high because there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. You took that first, and often most difficult, step. Your sacrifice and dedication have hopefully made the task of future Gilas teams that much easier. And every one of you (yes, including Coach Rajko and Marcus Douthit) has shown more love for the Philippines than many of us who were left behind ever have. Forget about the detractors and crabs out there. We are — and will always be — extremely proud of you.

Most importantly, thank you for shattering our 40-year old Olympic dream. It was too old and pathetically out of reach, anyway. With the new system firmly in place, the refurbished Olympic dream is so close, so confidently real, that a nation 92-million strong can almost touch it. When you eventually make it to the big dance, we will all look back at 2011, marvel at the revolution you have kicked off, and finally understand that standing on a spotlit podium isn’t really necessary to be embraced as an honest-to-goodness champion.

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Mike is the editor-in-chief of Rebound magazine. For the past two years, he has been working together with the Rebound team to produce what he hopes is a high quality college basketball magazine. His vision for Rebound is to make it as much a part of college hoops tradition as cheer squads and rabid fans.


  • paxbedan says:

    it was so close, we could touch it.. this is just one “quarter” of our journey to the olympics.. and of all the countries in the world i think we are the most deserving, for we love this sport more than anyone else.. i just hope when i look back on that day, on that game.. and see our country playing in the biggest stage in the world, id have a chance to thank even just one member of that team.

  • red rampant says:

    They will still be heroes. it was a hard fought battle for a team with 3 years experience comapred to others working and playing together for half and some a decade. Napapanot na nga yun iba.

  • SK says:

    panis sayang pera. laging talo hihihi huhuhu

  • Failure happens only when we stop dreaming…

    1)Are there Filipino or Filam point guards in the pipeline who are good and stand 6’3″ and above????

    2)Can we get 2 or 3 Naturalized players ala Douhit???

    3)Is there such a thing as Filipino Amateur Basketball that can be conceptualized, developed and practiced???

    4)Can we develop a team with players of versatile skills and roles, and everybody dribble???

  • Truth is, 3 years is not enough….

    • sketch says:

      We have gotten this far in only three years. they should continue the Gilas program. Continue to bring in new players to the pool. Continue exposing our national team players to international competition. We finally have a system that works, if they discontinue this, then those three years would have gone for naught. Learn from what happened in Wuhan and look forward to the future.

      • wye says:

        problem is they should have a training pool on the side, the top amateurs, tapos habang humihinog sila eh pba players ang ipadala sa bigtime international tourneys. much like what japan is doing, pag jones cup or other minor tourneys team b lang pinapadala nila pero pag importante na un team a na. eh tayo one in the same lang, i can just imagine a five of alapag, hontiveros, arwind, kelly and douthit backed up by 6’2 ryan reyes, 6’5 gabe norwood, 6’2 james yap, 6’7 jdv, 6’7 jwash, 6’9 japeth, 6’6 ranidel..that for me is a national squad.

        • sketch says:

          true, we should have a team B. scouted na players natin, while the other teams are holding out their best players for the more important tournaments. imagine, japan’s matsui, who burned us with his shooting, is just a third stringer, i think, for their team A. i wouldn’t say the whole 3 years was a waste. at least we have a template of something that will work for us. the problem with fielding in pros from the PBA is that they are so accustomed with pro rules that they have trouble adjusting, whereas this GILAS team has been acclimatized to playing FIBA rules by being constantly exposed to international play.

          • SCD says:

            can’t we try something like this?-

            the 5 and 4 posts can be naturalized players w/heights of:

            4 post= 6’9-10
            5 post= 6’11- above

            3 (pinoy) = 6’6-8 <– needs to be heavily drilled on dribbling skills
            2 (pinoy) = 6'3-5 <– same
            1 (pinoy) = 6'0-2

            w/this, we might have a fighting chance. d pa sigurado sa olympic or even asian level yan, pero may laban na talaga yan.

    • pain says:

      i agree, 3 years is just to short for our olympic dream, patience we will get there. to GILAS team, were so proud to were you made it.

  • Spinning Back Fist says:

    Still proud of the Gilas.

  • Spinning Back Fist says:

    I can still remember that stinging loss against South Korea in the 2002 Asian Games I think that was held in Busan. 4rth year Highschool ako nun. Asi Taulava and Olsen Racela (of all people) missing those very important but pressure packed free throws.
    Losing at the buzzer, especially after that three by Racela and the free throws to seal the deal, gave me that proud feeling, that YES!!! feeling, only to be….. Sad.

    Hehehe, I clearly remember that right after that loss, I grabbed my basketball, and just shot the sky, releasing it as high as I can, in a free throwing manner, hanggang dumilim.

    • sketch says:

      I also remember that game. kung naipasok sana yung 2 nyang freethrows, panalo sana tayo. ayun, nadisgrasya tuloy, hehe. minsan kasi wrong timing din uminit sa tres ang kalaban natin.

    • WES says:

      I remember the game as well even if I was still in grade school at that time. NBN-4, I think, covered it live. I watched the entire game and dreamed with the team. I think I even watched the entire tourney. Racela, Hontiveros, the Jet and Asi were our starting unit. All tourney long I believed our team was a continent powerhouse. Those 2 FTs of Olsen would have iced that game, but I let’s not forget prior to his misses, we already missed at least 2. It was the topic in every boy circles in the school then for the entire day. Everyone in pain, and everyone just played basketball. I even made teams for NBA Live 2002, SoKor and RP. And I took my frustration in the PS game,blowing out SoKor with a 50pt lead. LOL.

    • truth says:

      With just seconds left in the clock and Philippines leading by 2, Racela was fouled to stop the time. He misses both freethrows and Korea shot a three. ARAY!!!

      Jong Uichico admitted it was his mistake. Phi still had 1 timeout remaining and didn’t use it to create a what if scenario in the event that Racela misses his second freethrow. So sad. To make things worse, Korea beat China for the gold.

  • wye says:

    i say bring together the best pba stars, plug in douthit…whoever the coach will be will surely bring us back to prominence. kahit 1 month practice lang yan, contrary to a wasted 3 years of underdevelopment, kaya ng mga beterano yan.

    • butete says:

      weh? di nga? ka-level na ba ng NBA ang mga taga-PBA dito para masabi mo yan? kung ganun nga e di sana sila na ang nag-gold nung asian games na aforementioned. yun na yun e. sus…

      • wye says:

        like i said and have been saying…the past teams were without the single most important factor the gilas team had…marcus douthit. tanggalin mo si douthit sa gilas, tignan natin kung umabot man lang ng quarters. sorry but hilaw na hilaw pa sila casio, tiu, baracael, et al…anyone else noticed it was jimmy, kelly and ranidel who were supporting douthit? so yeah, had we sent all pros backed by douthit, we would have toppled most everyone. provided they be given enough time to prepare din, mga 4-6 months..

    • Spinning Back Fist says:

      Wye, pare, I disagree 100%!!
      Erik Menk and Danny Ildefonso were part of that 2002 team. MVP sila nun sa PBA. They played and gave their 100% for their respective professional clubs. But did they do the same for the national team? **cking no eh. All they did was signal the substitution arm sign just seconds after entering the game. They made me sick. And I’m getting too emotional, hehehehe.

      • WES says:

        The 2002 team was okay, SBF. All players there during that time were system players. You could see clearly how Asi was controlling the paint, with Rudy Hatfield and Eric Menk providing him with an assurance of I got your back buddy. Then you have The Jet and RaRa who were like bestfriends, parang quarterback running back tandem lang of Tom Brady and Wes Welker. Then you have Dondon who was like all the time, I’m always ready to take the shot. The teams led by Miller, Caguiao, Helterbrand, Alapag, Cyrus Baguio, and James Yap were the soloist. The brightspots there were only ryan reyes and kelly williams who were system players. IMO.

      • wye says:

        dude, there was no douthit then…we had no naturalized 7-footer then who was averaging a monster double-double. menk and danny I are obviously mismatched at C in the international level, so plug in douthit to man the 5 and slide our star pinoy pro bigs to 4 – guys like jwash, jdv, kelly, rabeh, aldrech – who aren’t only big but have outside shots. sorry bro but we can’t compare the past national teams to the gilas squad coz they had a kuya Marcus.

    • WES says:

      Chief, kind disagree with you there. I don’t like the PBA players. Pro players have a lot of ego sometimes. Before the Smart Gilas program, they weren’t as successful. For every game they played, it was obvious they were not very organized. A lot of hero ball. Mark Caguiao, Jimmy Alapag, James Yap etc. Unlike this one, the plays are executed very well. I think the 3 years was not a waste. It was still successful. It only became wasted because the players opted for pro draft. Of course, they would, since gumawa na nga ng team nagpapareinforce pa from the pros. Take China and SoKor. The players there are developed for a long time and not reinforced by players not COMPLETELY familiar with the system. Nakadorm pa yang mga Chinese at Koreans. IMO, chief.

    • WES says:

      I remember the time when Willie Miller, Jimmy Alapag, Mark Caguioa, and James Yap would always overshoot the ball. The effect? 20-35 blowouts by the opposing team. Unlike the Smart Gilas program, by definition, they are programmed to respond to whatever situations. Effective or not, they have a response. They don’t panic to the point that the guards overshoot. Once they are in troubled territory, they have this plan to execute without seeing other players shoot them out of the contest. There were even times that after Kerby Raymundo rebounds the basketball and gives to Helterbrand the entire team does not have a concrete response. They just let the aforementioned guards overshoot. Smart Gilas overshoots sometimes, but the system gives them a knuckle sandwich to get them back to their senses. They have a better control and trust thanks to 3-year familiarity with the system.

      • wye says:

        well the 3 years ain’t a complete waste, we put the system in place…but the one glaring disappointment is the supposed development of the gilas boys. in fact ababou, ballesteros, barocca, japeth and especially cawaling regressed. casio was the only notable improvement but it still wasn’t enough to keep his minutes away from jimmy. look at it like this, yeng guiao said it best…the best pool of talent is definitely in the pba so we should have sent pros. anyway dapat kasi kadugtong ito ng post ko above regarding team A and team B…read that na lang din guys para maintindihan nyo ko. =)

        • WES says:

          On that level I agree though that the best talent is in the PBA and we would have had a better talent pool with that. But, then again, those players don’t work with a system. As a matter of fact, some consider PBA as the most competitive pro-league outside of China. But how can we defeat a country with a basketball system in place that is perfected already by their players over the years?

        • Spinning Back Fist says:

          I can’t remember the name of the former PBA commissioner, basta yung predecessor nung present PBA commissioner. He’s a soft spoken gentleman who always smiles. And that’s how he reasons, or makes excuses on not sending PBA players on international tourneys. I wanna punch him.

    • Hellboy says:

      Sablay. Lol!

  • Jai Ho says:

    I personally believe that the next batch of Gilas should be 85% former or current Red Lions. Why? Because sila ang sanay makalaro ang isang import and won lots of games and championships because of it. They live and breath success and pride because of imports.

  • Popsy says:

    susme magshift na lang kasi sa football o kaya boxing.masayado kasi nila pinipilit na ma-qualify sa olympic.para naman silang nangangarap ng gising..dati tayo hari ng Asia sa basketball kasi naman hindi pa marurunong magbasketball yung mga chinese.

  • Z says:

    take it as one small step back and prepare for the giant leap afterwards. not everything can be done overnight or in a matter of three years. Iran wasn’t that kind of international power in basketball quickly. China had its share of failures as well. South Korea and Japan also have their shortcomings before rising up. instead of putting the boys down, pitch in who can replace who in the scheme of things and of course, stay within the system. yun naman ang sikreto ng mga matagumpay na national teams eh.

  • truth says:

    As of now, most of the best players in the Philippines are in the PBA. I noticed that apart from Marcus Douthit, it was the PBA players who played well for the Smart Gilas squad during the FIBA tournament namely, Alapag, Williams, De Ocampo and even Asi. Barocca, Casio, Tiu, Lassitere and Lutz played well before the Fiba Asia. But they were nowehere as productive or consistent as we had hoped them to be.

    Coach Raijko has a good system. But in a way, it lacks powerhouse talent like what the PBA has. Considering that the program has just been there for 3 years, I hope that all of the rising Filipino talents would give Gilas a try before trying their hand at the PBA.

    The main focus of other countries is the FIBA and Olympics. Their professional leagues are just secondary. But because of the PBA and it’s year-round tournaments, the best talents play the PBA system which consist mostly of one-on-one plays and one-on-one defense. It takes time to learn a good system and readjust yourself to play offense and defense as a team. But it’s hard because most teams don’t want to loan their players for a long time.

    • truth says:

      The Gilas team didn’t even win the PBA championship. They were beaten by pure talent. That just goes to show that if the best players are selected, placed in a system like Raijko’s we could definitely place even better. We just need to prioritize Gilas over PBA when it comes to players.

      I also agree with getting foreign coaches. The main reason that we fell behind is because even if Filipinos became more talented now, the style of play has pretty much been the same. The best coaches for international leagues aren’t here. I don’t even think they’re in the US. For me, the best coaches are in Europe because their style of play has always been geared toward International competition. Apart from the talent that they now have, they have superior systems that have proven to be effective in FIBA and the Olympics. For me, the NBA just wins because of their talent alone.

    • asdfgh says:


      Forget it dude. It’s dead.

      Corrupted, fil-ams, pulitika, pera-pera

  • SK says:

    wala na basketbol pilipinas panis na katulad ni yahoo alias pain ! huhuhu hihihi

  • whitegreenpoppy says:

    “Jitters-to-Jinx” na lang ba lagi tayo against South Korea? C’mon, develop and simulate individual mental toughness. The Sokors always had it at the stretch, but I guess the less experienced Gilas got stretched too thin in the last two semifinal games. 3 bungled free throws vs. SoKor? The slip shows. Back to square one.

  • whitegreenpoppy says:

    “Jitters-to-Jinx” na lang ba lagi tayo against South Korea? C’mon, develop and simulate individual mental toughness. The Sokors always had it at the stretch, but I guess the less experienced Gilas got stretched too thin in the last two semifinal games. 3 bungled free throws vs. SoKor? The slip shows. Back to square one.

  • ambidextrose says:

    PBA killed Smart Gilas!

  • SK says:

    wla na basketbol pilipinas. panis na katulad ng mga talangka dito. hihihi huhuhu

  • SK says:

    gilas panis sa northern consolidated. laging champeon noon.

  • muralla22 says:

    my world almost stopped when the buzzer sounds as i stand in disbelief of what happened….i really thought that the game was already in the bag and yet the koreans made the comeback and we melt underpressure….hai, this was the best chance to qualify to olympics and to compete to european and american countries….neverthless we brought back the respect that we are one of the best in asia

  • Thanks for your replies. I can sense the passion you all have for our team. I agree that the program should continue. We will get there if we keep at it!

    • paulrenzo says:

      How can you not be passionate? Kung hindi lang dinaga iyung mga players natin, we could have at least entered the wild card round…and “pagiging daga” is something that can be overcome through more experience in the court, whether in the PBA, or abroad.

      We’ll eventually get there. We’ve already found a good system we can work with…we just need to find (and hope) for the right set of players for the next iteration of Gilas.

  • Pinoy says:

    Failure begins when we stop trying. 2018 is not that far from now. May be. just Maybe Ravena and Parks is the key for that Olympic dream.

  • muralla22 says:

    just keep on believing folks….and me too agree’s that the program should continue….its only been 3 years and yet we reach this far…what more when they are playing together for 5 or more years…this is not the end..this was only the beginning of our journey….and if they continue the program and recruit some blue chip players, then we can revive our lost glory and can be the best basketball nation in asia or maybe a serious contender in the world

    • wye says:

      well i sorta have a better plan in mind…we shouldn’t have just 1 national team, we should have a battle-tested team A and a developmental team B. much like the schools have…team A ang sumasabak sa mga importante na tourney, team B ang lalaban sa mga minor tourney. players from team b can be elevated to team A or let go of the developmental squad if they fail to deliver or improve. team A players meanwhile can either retire from international ball, while still playing locally for a living of course, or simply be replaced by a better player. team A should be comprised of a solid group of 15 of the best basketball players we have while team B is a pool of 30 college or high school players who show tremendous potential. sana ito nga ang plano sa gilas2 and sinag.

  • Is there a way to get all Big Business involved and committed to the program???


    • paulrenzo says:

      We already have more than enough funds…the problem is the talent pool; the PBA clubs generally are afraid of releasing their players for FIBA Asia tournaments, due to possible injuries.

  • SCD says:

    the ayala zobels are spaniards, w/american passports, living and doing business in the philippines…LOLOLOL

  • SCD says:

    we’re better off w/the chinoys!!! :)

  • SCD says:

    what gives IBP? just saying…lol

  • SCD says:

    michael…ewan ko kung bakit mo ine-edit ang posts ko, eh totoo naman. :)

  • SCD says:

    tapos, pumapayag kayo dito na manira ang ibang schools…ano yan double-standard?

  • PAX says:

    Let’s just look at the bright side. A team composed of players na halos kakagraduate lang from college? Lalakas at lalakas pa sila. The road to redemption will be long, but as long as it’s not 0% hindi siya imposible. =)

  • enggoy says:

    Oh, sila ba? mga GFs ‘ata ng mga bulldog players, after their game, tumabi na sa kanila, eh

  • htdee says:

    Here’s my lengthy Smart Gilas post-mortem, and why college basketball has to do something with them not reaching their potential:

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