It has not been a good period for Philippine basketball in terms of the rest of the world. It began in 2015, when the International Federation of Basketball (FIBA) narrowed down its preference of host venue for the 2019 Basketball World Cup in Asia. That left the Philippines and China with the only serious hosting bids. Despite an inspired presentation the Filipino bid lost to the Chinese. Thus it was left for the country’s national men’s basketball team, Gilas Pilipinas, to make up for that with a good showing in the tournament. Unfortunately, mismatches with some opponents and pure bad luck led to the team being eliminated, with no victories.
As reported by Inquirer.net, Gilas Pilipinas wrapped up its most disappointing showing in the FIBA World Cup after several years, when the current team lost to international basketball powerhouse Iran Sunday, September 8. With that, every single game it played in the World Cup at China, which beat the country for hosting rights, ended in defeat as well. The national team has contended with the Iranians before, and their nightmare personified by Hamed Haddadi destroyed whatever narrow point gap existed between the two squads, culminating in a 95-75 final score.
During the FIBA World Cup preliminaries, the Gilas lost all three of its games played in Group D. While the losses against top teams such as Italy and Serbia could not be helped, the overtime defeat against Angola, 84-81, practically sapped all vigor from the Filipino squad, composed of PBA regulars and naturalized player Andray Blatche. During the classification games, Gilas and Angola were grouped with Tunisia and Iran, with the Tunisians stunning the Philippines anew last Friday, September 6, with 86-67 and scrapping chances for Gilas to play in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. Iran was the final nail in the World Cup coffin.
In a post-game dissection, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao, reiterated the old complaints that a lack of preparation time led to the lopsided upsets, particularly in team dynamics. Considering that most of the Gilas players are loan-outs from the professional PBA league that can only spare them for long before they are needed for season conferences, Guiao remarks that prospective team members need to play together for a matter of years. Adding the fact that Gilas rarely got matched with European and Latin-American teams in tune-up games, they are easily overwhelmed by taller players.
Guiao notes that the harsh lessons of this 2019 FIBA World Cup for Gilas – which led to the Serbian head coach to declare the team unqualified to compete in FBA at all – had to be absorbed by the next team roster and coach, to prepare ahead of the 2023 Cup, wherein the Philippines is joint host alongside Japan and Indonesia.
Image courtesy of Philippine Star