MANILA, Philippines – From one more look at just how far wisdom, despite shaky knees, can still take us, to a glimpse of what the future holds – 2015 was a defining year for Philippine national men’s basketball team Gilas Pilipinas.
(LOOK BACK: Most unforgettable Gilas Pilipinas moments of 2014)
Rappler takes you back to those significant moments worth remembering from the past year as we march into 2016.
1. “Manong Brigade” – One more dance for Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros
In 2015, veterans Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros showed all of us heart and will can overcome physical limitations brought on by age. The two provided experience and wisdom to a group of young guys starting from Estonia, in Taiwan for the Jones Cup, back in the Philippines, and to China for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.
(READ: The secret to Hontiveros and Taulava’s playing longevity)
Hontiveros, 38, served as team captain of Gilas 3.0. His clutch performance in an overtime win over the New Zealand Wellington Saints at the Jones Cup last September certainly will never be forgotten. While the ageless Taulava, 42, has been an inspiration for consistency and hard work, especially for rookies Moala Tautuaa and Troy Rosario.
2. The rise of Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva
As the vets schooled foes and teammates alike, we also saw the future of Gilas. Guard Terrence Romeo and forward Calvin Abueva joined the nationals for the first time and quickly made an impression both for Filipinos and the continental basketball community.
Romeo, 23, brought his ankle-breaking, sweet-shooting prowess to the international stage and wowed audiences beyond Philippine shores. While Abueva, 27, displayed his boundless energy and character for Asia to marvel.
(WATCH: Terrence Romeo’s killer crossover, Calvin Aueva’s throwdown vs Kuwait)
The pair, along with star playmaker Jayson Castro, are pegged to be the future of the national team. They, too, are included in the pool of players from which head coach Tab Baldwin will select the final line-up to play at the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July.
In the same vein, the unexpected possibility of Fil-Am Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson being available for the Philippine team also heightened positivity over what Gilas can become, more so if they make it to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
(READ: Jordan Clarkson commits to Gilas program through 2024)
A significant victory for Gilas in 2015 is the team’s convincing 87-73 upset of the previous FIBA Asia defending champion Iran. (READ: Gilas triumph over Iran more than just another win)
The Philippines took down the giants for the first time since the 2012 Jones Cup but without 7-foot-2 behemoth Hamed Haddadi. The last time they beat Iran with Haddadi was in the 2011 Jones Cup.
Gilas finally got over the hump and exacted a measure of payback on Iran, who pummeled the Philippines in the gold medal match at the 2013 FIBA Asia tilt. Jayson Castro led the charge with 26 points.
(READ: Alapag, Belga elated with Gilas win vs old foe Iran)
Gilas’ victory was a sweet testament to the program’s improvement and an indication of where it can go, especially with naturalized big man Andray Blatche, whose presence helped stymie Iran.
4. The sting of a silver medal
Two years ago, Gilas Pilipinas won silver medals that shined like gold. In 2015, the nationals received silver medals that truly hurt.
Though not a particularly fond memory, Gilas’ sorry loss to powerhouse China – on their home court no less and with controversy – in the gold medal game of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship must never be forgotten.
‘The goal is to make a mark on the world stage and you do that by winning, not competing.’
(READ: Bully moves? MVP furious as Gilas bus delayed, coaches denied tickets)
The Philippines needed that one final, most crucial win of all to say they had achieved the ultimate goal: to qualify outright for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. A win would have ended over 4 decades of absence in the men’s Olympic basketball basketball tournament, where the Philippines last played in 1972.
Baldwin articulated it best, speaking during the opening ceremonies of the PBA’s 41st season last October where Gilas was honored.
“We can no longer get to where we want to go by being competitive. We got to win,” he explained.
“All of the congratulations and the support that we’ve received for the performance of Gilas this past campaign, still you have to cast it in the light that we didn’t achieve the last hurdle. The goal is to make a mark on the world stage and you do that by winning, not competing.”
The painful loss must be remembered, so we understand the lessons learned and we know not to repeat them again. (WATCH: Heartbreak as Gilas falls to China in FIBA Asia final)
But that gold medal match was not the only stinging defeat to China in 2015. Worth mentioning is the Philippines’ failed bid to host the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The country’s heart-warming pitch was not enough to top China’s very modern proposal.
5. Welcome support from the PBA
Finally, an important moment for Gilas Pilipinas occured not on the basketball court, but inside the Board room.
On October 14, the PBA Board concluded a special meeting and announced it will lend 17 pro players to the Gilas pool to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Qualifier. The league also allotted once-a-week practices for the pool. Granted it’s not much and even lesser than the preparation time for FIBA Asia, but it’s better than nothing – as Baldwin pointed out.
The Board also agreed to adjust the schedule for the PBA’s 41st season with the Governors’ Cup conference to begin after the Qualifier, which will take place in 3 different cities around the world, with the Philippines vying to host as well.
The PBA’s resolutions came after criticism from fans and after basketball patron Manny V. Pangilinan expressed the possibility of not sending a team to the qualifier. Ahead of FIBA Asia, Gilas Pilipinas suffered roster blows with key players pulling out whether due to injury, fatigue, or personal reasons.
More concrete and stable plans have yet to be set in place for the future of the national team program, especially with the new FIBA schedule coming up, but the league’s vow of support is one step in the right direction. – Rappler.com
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