Gilas Diaries: Small moments
MANILA, Philippines -- Much like the previous practice, Day 4 was quite uneventful. Rather than have throngs of media storm the Ultra for a glimpse of the nationals, the evening was eerily peaceful. The practice didn’t have any big set pieces. In fact, an ignorant onlooker might simply dismiss it as a regular practice with regular guys. People in-the-know, of course, do know that the players on this team are anything but regular.
It was not a night of spectacle and revelry. It was a night of small moments.
This was the first time Jeff Chan actually went on the hardwood for some drills. He wasn’t doing it with the other players, though, since he’s still injured. He’s just doing some sprints and laterals. He’s stretching on the floor. He’s working out with the conditioning personnel of Gilas. In short, he’s still a long way from being ready.
I remember having my doubts about Jeff Chan being selected for the team in 2012. I felt that he wasn’t ready. I felt he wasn’t “big time” enough to even be considered. Sure, he had a great run in the 2012 Governors’ Cup, but was that really enough to warrant selection to the national team? I thought the answer should’ve been in the negative.
I was wrong.
In the 2012 Jones Cup, Chan was a revelation. He was second on the Gilas squad in scoring with 11.6ppg while shooting nearly 47% from beyond the arc. On average, he made nearly 3 triples per game as the Pinoys went all the way to win the title for the first time in 14 years. Right now, he just might be our number one option at two-guard.
At this point in the practice, the guys who will compete with Chan for the SG spot –Gary David, Larry Fonacier, and Ryan Reyes – are all on the other end of the court, going through the many iterations of the dribble-drive offense.
David is a purer shooter than Chan. Fonacier is a better defender. Reyes is a better penetrator and playmaker. Each of those three guys is better than Chan in one or two aspects, but what makes Chan special is he does all those things at a consistently good level (let’s just forget the 2012 Philippine Cup Finals shall we?).
After doing his stretching, Chan gets up and gets one of the unused basketballs. He tries to dribble it a few times along the sideline. He winces in pain. Something is still not right. Afterwards, he sits back on the bench and lets out a sigh.
When the 2013 PBA All-Star Weekend in Digos, Davao del Sur comes around, will Chan be ready? Will he be one of the cagers in the final reveal of the Gilas Pilipinas lineup?
If it were up to him, he’d be there for sure.
But it’s not.
Will heaven grant us a miracle?
As Chan rests on the bench, there are people standing in the middle of the basketball court. These are the people who will make the critical choices for the final makeup of the team. There’s Jong Uichico, coach of the 2012 National Team to the Busan Asian Games, Norman Black, coach of the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games squad, and Chot Reyes, coach of SMC Team Pilipinas in the 2007 Tianjin FIBA Asia tournament. All three coaches are sharing a light moment, talking about one of the most interesting basketball stories of that particular day.
Earlier that Monday (Sunday in the US), half a world away in Westchester, New York, there was a Section 1 Class AA Championship game played between the favored Mt. Vernon HS Knights and the New Rochelle HS Huguenots. The Knights were leading most of the way, and were ahead, 60-58, with less than 3 seconds on the clock. New Rochelle’s Khalil Edney’s inbound pass was intercepted by one of the Knights, who threw the ball into New Rochelle’s backcourt. The quick-witted Edney intercepted THAT pass and just hurled the ball at the general direction of his team’s basket. This he did from about 60 feet away. Unbelievably, the ball dropped through the hoop, and the Huguenots won the game.
It was a crazy sequence – a miraculous sequence.
As Gabe Norwood joined the coaching staff at center court and mimicked Edney’s championship-clinching heave, I got to thinking – in August, will Gilas Pilipinas be as fortunate as the Huguenots? Will heaven smile upon us and grant us a miracle?
The last time New Rochelle won the AA title was in 2005. The last time we won the FIBA Asia was way back in 1985.
At one side of the court, a fan who’s probably old enough to remember that 1985 title is going around carrying a basketball. He goes to each player and, armed with an ear-to-ear grin, asks for each Gilas hopeful to affix his signature on the spheroid.
Hey, that could be valuable someday.
Someday, it won’t be just one fan wanting to have these players’ autographs. Someday, they’ll be mobbed.
Perhaps someday, they’ll also lift the FIBA Asia trophy.
Like I wrote at the beginning of this post, there weren’t any huge instances in Day 4 of the Gilas practices. You have star shooting guard Jeff Chan getting himself fixed, the coaching staff talking about a basketball miracle, and a fan going around collecting signatures.
There are no highlights tonight. Just small moments.
But it is in these small moments when we see the authenticity this national pool. They work hard. They hope. They connect with the people whom they will represent.
No highlights. Not yet. Highlights go hand-in-hand with hype and popularity.
Small moments. Small moments show character and truth.
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