It was a rough FIBA World Cup bracket for Team Pilipinas, Palawan. Team Italy and Serbia walloped our boys by a 50 point average margin while Angola kept us winless in the bracket eliminations. To say it bluntly, we are still a “world” away from being very competitive at this level of basketball. The good news is, we can learn from this and build on.

I believe our team should move on to a younger breed of naturalized player. Not necessarily a center but perhaps a dominant stretch 4 or 3. A scoring threat that can play both forward positions. Let the center spot be rotated by our local bigs. Greg Slaughter and Junemar Fajardo can alternate at the 5. Let the scoring import, a legit 3 point shooter preferably, dominate the 4 position. Let Japeth Aguilar, Raymond Almazan and even Poy Erram swing between the 3-4 positions. I believe Norwood can be an asset as an assistant coach for the next tourney.

Troy Rosario should be played 2-3 in the new roster. Get another pair of 6-5 or 6-6 “swing” players who can stretch the floor … and quick enough to chase after the shooters that are predominant in the world stage. Bobby Ray Parks can be the 2 option and hopefully, once he seals a new long term contract in the NBA, Jordan Clarkson can be played as a local. Keep Kiefer Ravena as a point guard along with Robert Bolick. But no more 6’2 off guards please. They simply couldn’t defend against 6’6 to 6’8 shooters.

I understand our nation abounds with exemplary athletes that stand 6’2 or less but we have proven that time and again, we can’t defend the perimeter with smaller players. It’s time we stack up with taller athletes that can play multiple positions. At least the extra height could probably match up easier … it would still not be a guarantee though. The world has caught up big time with the United States in basketball skill, technology and will. We need to try to adapt to the changes if we really intend to go deep in international tournaments.

Kai Sotto, should be the next big to take the place of either Slaughter or Fajardo. We could probably include him on the roster pool as early as the next major event. He is going to learn a lot by being exposed early. Imagine having Slaughter, Fajardo and Sotto plus a foreign naturalized import manning the frontline. Now that could give some 7 foot centers second thoughts in attacking the rim.

All is not lost in our quest for elite basketball status but we need to learn from how the Euro teams, even China in preparing for jousts like this. We continue to assemble rosters and conduct once a week practices when the other countries have more solid, foundational national team programs. Perhaps we should expand the pool to 24 players for the next wave. Practice as early as after the World Cup. Keep that 24 together for a longer period and pull out the best 12 when competition begins.

The Philippine Basketball Association should modify their calendar to allow players to rest in between conferences. I believe it is time to go back to a 2- conference format. Allow athletes to regenerate so they don’t play all year. Then you will have a good program for the national cause. The new FIBA format and scheduling is tough to secure services of most professional athletes. If ballclubs are concerned about lack of air time, follow the steps the UAAP did to make way for the Southeast Asian Games … follow a 3 – game format on some days.

It also wouldn’t hurt to revisit the cadet program from varsity schools that can help fill the 24 man pool. Sotto is a shoo in. I believe Kobe Paras should also be in the running. Ateneo center Angelo Kouame can be a back up naturalized option either as a big or a practice body.

As far as coaching goes, it is unfair to put the blame on Coach Yeng Guiao and his staff as he made the most of the cards dealt him. Injuries, minimal practice time, hardly any tune up games against quality competition. They deserve a chance to redeem themselves but next time around, execute with the national program as priority. The leagues should adjust around the national team calendar, not the other way around. This is the only way we can make a dent otherwise, we will just be spending money without a return of investment.

UAAP Opening Games

The Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines opened the basketball games Wednesday and I am quite excited with how teams built their programs this year. I saw the UST – UE game and couldn’t help but to compare how the league evolved through the years. Gone are the days of static zone defenses. It’s full court press almost the entire game. Finesse players won’t cut it anymore. An athlete needs to have the stamina, speed, power and conditioning including meeting weight limits to survive college ball.

The speed and power needed to push the ball against a full time press will cause teams with a shallow guard rotation huge problems. That’s what happened to UE against a rejigged University of Sto Tomas. They lacked ball handling stability outside of Phillip Manalang. UST has far more options at the back court with Mark Nonoy and Renzo Subido along with ball handling wings.

The same is the case on the next two games which saw UP winning over FEU and Ateneo, with a surprisingly faster Kouame (7’0 center running the break and sometimes even helping on the press) beating the Adamson Falcons and their trademark Pumaren press.

It still looks like Ateneo is rock solid with UP and Adamson looking sharp to make it to the top 3. We haven’t seen La Salle and NU yet but it looks like the 4th spot is wide open. College ball is alive again, Palawan. I just wish that the UP Maroons fix their “short” shorts by their next game.

(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)

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