By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Philippine men’s national basketball team ended its FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign on Sunday, a bid that turned out to be a whole rougher than what was expected by the team, eventually seeing itself finishing dead last in the competition.
In the aftermath, stakeholders found themselves in much realization and assessment over what happened and what needed to be done moving forward.
Gilas Pilipinas played a total of five games in this latest iteration of the global basketball spectacle, which hit the quarterfinal phase beginning yesterday, and all lost by an average margin of 29.8 points.
It had a chance to book a win against Angola in its final game in group play on Sept. 4 but could not complete it, losing a heartbreaker, 84-81, in overtime.
In the classification round, the Philippines tried its best to salvage what was left of its campaign but did not get the winning break it wanted, bowing to Tunisia and Iran, in that order.
The Philippines wound up with the worst point differential in the 32-team tournament at minus-147.
Ivory Coast (minus-74) was in 29th place with Senegal (minus-102) 30th, and Japan (minus-130) at 31st place.
Bowed out in a manner the way they did, Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao said the World Cup was truly an eye-opener, something to take cue from for the country as it regroups and recalibrates its basketball program for future competitions.
“We’ve been playing Asian level basketball, but of course, the world level is different — several notches different. The expectations are different. When you get to the World Cup — or maybe the Olympics — the competition is just different. Totally different than the Asian level,” Mr. Guiao was quoted as saying by the official FIBA Website.
“We need certain types of players, and we need more exposure to this level of play. These are the things that I guess we need to work on, but it’s always long-term. I don’t think there’s any short-term solution to that,” he added.
In the World Cup, naturalized player Andray Blatche led the way for the Philippines, finishing with averages of 15.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.4 steals, albeit admittedly these were below the norms he set in the World Cup in 2014.
CJ Perez was a revelation in the tournament, posting numbers of 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists. For a while, he was the leading scorer of the squad.
As a team it shot just 38.3%, 29th in the tournament, and 25.2% from three-point land (31st). It committed 15 turnovers per game, third worst, and averaged 13.2 assists (29th).
But despite the heartbreaking campaign, Gilas is still grateful for the chance to have been able to play on such a stage even as it expressed hope that the hard lessons of it would be taken to heart by all concerned and used as motivation and inspiration to be better.
“Wasn’t the outcome we expected or wanted, but the lessons learned will help move Philippine basketball forward. Proud to carry the flag and go to battle with this group! I look forward to the changes that will be made to prepare the 2023 edition of Gilas!” Gabe Norwood, the longest-tenured Gilas player who saw action in the World Cup, wrote on Twitter after their campaign ended.
The Philippines, along with Indonesia and Japan, will host the 2023 edition of the World Cup.
Meanwhile, the knockout quarterfinals of the World Cup began yesterday with one bracket pitting Argentina against Serbia and the other having Spain versus Poland.
The other pairings have the United States of America against France and Australia versus the Czech Republic.