MANILA, Philippines – There were no expectations of an upset when Myanmar faced the Philippines on Friday, May 12 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. But a 107-point beating made it more clear that the country’s path to being competitive in basketball remains lengthy and bumpy at best.
“Philippines.. everybody.. they are two levels above us,” said coach Ten Kok Heng after his young Myanmar squad bowed down, 147-40, in the 2017 SEABA Championships opener.
The Burmese squad, assembled only a month before the tournament, is comprised of very young and inexperienced players with the oldest only at age 23, and the youngest at 18.
The team was so battered and the outcome inevitable since the first quarter that the Filipino home crowd found themselves cheering for every Myanmar basket – particularly their 5 3-pointers.
Asked about the basketball landscape of Myanmar, Ten Kok Heng admitted they had a “long way to go” before truly becoming winners. The country is still in transition to a democracy after decades of military rule.
Despite the demolition job they had to endure, the coach expressed pride over the fight his players showed.
“I’m proud of my boys because they never give up,” he said before conceding. “In terms of size, physicality, we totally lost to them. I have nothing to say. It was just sure that we’re going to lose these games.”
Though still a new team, it would seem the players are in good hands under the tutelage of Ten Kok Heng, a coach who knows what it takes to top the region in basketball.
Ten Kok Heng, a Malaysian, was part of the 1989 Malaysian squad that shockingly took down the Philippines in the gold medal match during the Southeast Asian Games.
“With proper playing and training, maybe 5 or 6 years you can see (they can be better),” he said. “Imagine they have a big population.”
Seeing as the team was assembled only last-minute, Ten Kok Heng is optimistic about their chances come the SEA Games in Malaysia this August.
“I’m very sure that when the SEA Games come, we will play better as a team.”
Myanmar next plays Vietnam on Sunday, May 14 at 5 pm. – Rappler.com