Every action in the past has its implication in the present if not in the future. Many Filipino fans are asking why we need the services of naturalized player Andray Blatche even to the extent of saying the presence of the latter playing together with PBA star who comprises the latest iteration of Gilas National Basketball team overkill.
But the landscape of South East Asian Basketball has changed in the past few years owing to the institution of the Asean Basketball League which serves as an avenue for players in the region to strut their stuffs professionally aside from the newly formed local professional leagues in Thailand and Vietnam. With those professional basketball leagues in place, the level of competition in South East Asia and the development of talent have improved drastically. We can still say at present that the Philippines is still the “king of hoops” in this region but with the said development from its neighbors, we might see an upset in the future.
Why does Gilas need an “overkill” for the SEABA? First, it is the only ticket available for the SEABA sub-zone to qualify for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup (formerly FIBA Asia Championships) that will be held in Beirut, Lebanon this August. By qualifying for the FIBA Asia Cup, Gilas’s hopes of qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China will still be alive because only the top 16 teams in Asia including Australia and New Zealand who will qualify in that said tournament will play in the Asian World Cup Qualifying tournament which starts this November.
Another question from our favorite barber is why was the Philippines already drawn last Sunday while the results in the SEABA is not yet settled? It is because the Philippines is the highest ranking team in the sub-zone.
Why only one ticket for SEABA? Why do the other sub-zones have multiple spots for the FIBA Asia Cup? It is because last year, Gilas did not finish within the top 5 during last year’s FIBA Asia Challenge that was held in Tehran, Iran. The Gilas cadets who played in that said tournament were coached by Josh Reyes due to the commitment of then National Coach Tab Baldwin to coach the Ateneo Men’s basketball team for the Season 79 of the UAAP. The champion of that said tournament earned an automatic berth for the FIBA Asia Cup and the top 5 finishers earned their sub-zones an additional berth for the FIBA Asia Cup.
That was the price that the Philippines had to pay for Gilas Cadet’s 9th place (out of 12) showing during the FIBA Asia Challenge. Yes, it was a good avenue for our young players to learn a thing or two in terms of international play and earn some experience to toughen them up in the future but sometimes, especially when the stakes are high, we must send the best team possible.
Overkill? No I don’t think so. Because if Gilas blinks, falters or get caught in a bad shooting night, the Filipino basketball fans, the most passionate hoop fans in the world might see their dream of a 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualification go to the dogs and they’ll have no choice but to wait until 2023 to play in the world stage again.
The 2017 SEABA tournament is a short, single round robin tournament where the first-placed team will automatically win the tournament and a loss will be costly for the campaign of the participating teams for their championship and FIBA Asia Cup dreams.
Overkill? Let’s just be sure of what we have to attain and not regret in the end. In today’s South East Asian basketball landscape, Gilas Pilipinas can never rely on talent alone but must send the best team possible so that the basketball kingship in this part of the world will still set its throne in the Philippines.
*Catch Gilas Play in the SEABA on the following dates. All games are played at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum