Much like its brother team the Azkals, (Philippine National Men’s Football Team) the National Men’s Basketball Team aka “Gilas” only came to prominence in recent years. It started with the 2011 FIBA Asia Championships where the team, built up only since 2009, reached the semis for the first time since 1987, only to be beaten by South Korea in the Bronze-medal match to lose a slot for the London 2012 Summer Olympics. Since then, Gilas Pilipinas made itself a noticeable presence in FIBA qualifiers with a goal to make it far in the FIBA World Cup. Its outing during the 2019 cup in China however, was cut short by two straight losses against Italy last week and Serbia this Monday.
EPSN-TV5 has it that the Gilas Philippine Men’s Basketball Team suffered what must be its biggest defeat in recent playing history against Serbia on the evening of September 2 at the Foshan International Sports and Cultural Center. That is the only way to describe the final score of 126-67 against the powerhouse European champion-level team. Compared to the 108-62 drubbing the Filipinos got from Italy last August 31, this was worse. It is a stark wake-up call to the differences between Philippine and international-level basketball.
The butcher’s bill at Gilas’ expense was summarized by Serbian head coach and former NBA player (Portland) Sasha Djordjevic at game’s end. While he gave props to Filipino quickness and talent on the court that night, as evidenced Gilas players keeping the Serbian lead to a minimum figure, ultimately the European physicality of its players wore the national team down. Djordjevic was also not impressed by an instance of “dirty play” in the last quarter when Paul Lee apparently nudged Serbian guard Marco Guduric towards the floor. Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao insists it was an accidental bump by Lee.
Ultimately however, Guiao had to concede that the Group D bracket Gilas Pilipinas found itself in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup left it at the mercy of larger, stronger teams like Italy and Serbia, which similarly made mincemeat of fourth team Angola. “We shot out of 4-of-24 on 3-points, and there’s no way we can beat them inside the paint,” he remarked. “They’re a lot bigger and stronger than we are.” To this Sasha Djordjevic agrees, believing that the current World Cup format tended to mismatch teams in their groupings, allowing championship-level countries to advance by demolishing lesser rosters.
This abysmal performance by Gilas on its latest FIBA Basketball World Cup outing was somewhat foreshadowed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement that he would not watch the team’s games during his simultaneously-occurring state visit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Duterte had callously noted that the national team was just wasting its time preparing for China.
Image courtesy of Philippine Star