When Asiad basketball is a priority for the Philippines

OVER the last three decades, our Philippine basketball teams sent to the Asian Games had their shares of highs and lows, leaving cage officials to restructure our program for the quadrennial meet.

There was a time when the Asian Games was considered a priority for our men’s basketball squad — be it amateur or professional.

In 1986, an all-amateur team composed of Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim, Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codiñera, Ronnie Magsanoc, Dindo Pumaren, Eric Altamirano, Jojo Lastimosa among others came close to playing in the gold medal match.

A controversial charging foul against Caidic during the semifinals game against host Korea, however, deprived our national squad of the chance of playing for the gold medal against China.

When the open basketball policy was implemented, the Philippines formed its first ever all-pro squad to the 1990 Asian Games, with Robert Jaworski being named head coach and pulling out some of the best players from the Philippine Basketball Association.

The team went on to finish second behind China to tally its the best ever finish in the Games since last winning it in 1962.

Three more PBA-backed teams after that represented the country in the Asian Games — the 1994 squad handled by Norman Black (finished fourth), the Centennial Team of Tim Cone (third) and the 2002 quintet of Jong Uichico (fourth).

Since then, the country’s basketball leaders shifted their focus and veered away from the Asiad for a bigger role — a spot in the World Championship or the Olympia via the FIBA Asia Championship.

But while we’re dreaming big, we’ve neglected another important piece of our history: the Asian Games.

Nearly six decades of title drought is enough and it’s about time our basketball leaders get their acts together and address the situation in the Asian Games.

For this year’s Asian Games, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas decided to tap the TNT Ka Tropa to be reinforced by several members of Gilas Cadets plus Andray Blatche, our naturalized player.

The ploy was similar to the 1994 Asian Games when the San Miguel Beermen, who won the All-Filipino title that season, represented the country in the quadrennial meet, but due to injuries, the team had to be reinforced by top players from Purefoods — Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codiñera and Rey Evangelista and Alaska point guard Johnny Abarrientos.

A similar thing happened in 2010 when the amateur-laden SMART-Gilas Pilipinas had to be represented by the likes of Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams and Sol Mercado.

Four years ago in China, the Philippines sent Gilas Pilipinas, fresh from a stint in the World Cup, with Marcus Douthit as reinforcement.

With a higher goal, the Asian Games had become a second fiddle priority for the Philippine men’s basketball team and the result was not encouraging over the last 32 years.

It’s about time we prioritize the Asiad, an event where Flipinos had a better chance of winning. We were able to put up our best team in the SEABA tournament, an event that can be dominated even by our college players. Why not send our best team to the Asian Games?

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