MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) is not asking for much from the national basketball team that will compete in the upcoming Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“The POC’s expectation is (for them) to perform better than how they performed in the last Asian Games in Korea,” POC president Ricky Vargas said in a press conference Sunday.
Vargas’s statement came after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and the PBA announced that the country will be sending a basketball team to the Asiad, more than a week after the SBP shockingly withdrew its participation.
The clamor of the Filipino fans, together with the willingness of PBA team owners to lend their players to the national team cause, had helped convince the SBP to reverse its decision. Special Assistant to the President Bong Go also made his case to the SBP and PBA to reconsider.
Now tasked to answer Vargas’s challenge is coach Yeng Guiao, who will call the shots for the team composed of the core of the Rain or Shine franchise along with reinforcements from other PBA squads.
The Philippines placed seventh in the last Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, when the country was represented by Gilas Pilipinas and reinforced by naturalized player Marcus Douthit.
“I mentioned to Coach Yeng that if we perform better than that (seventh place), that would be excellent considering the time he had to spend for the team,” said Vargas. “I think with this line-up, we’ll probably be able to perform better.”
“Maybe (we have) a long shot, getting to the medal round,” he added. “We would be very happy, from a POC standpoint, if we perform better than seventh.”
Guiao, for his part, welcomed the challenge and the pressure that came with representing the country.
“When we play and coach for the national team, there’s always pressure,” he pointed out.
“It’s also sacrifice, and it’s also service to the country. We do not mind that as long as we can make our countrymen who love basketball happy. We will represent the country to the best of our ability,” Guiao promised. “Of course, our objective is to make our countrymen proud.”
With all the hurdles that the national team is facing in its Asian Games stint, some of the stakeholders of Philippine basketball expressed their hope that the country will just rally behind the squad rather than scrutinize their every move.
“Coach Yeng will always fight and not back out from any challenge,” said SBP president Al Panlilio. “My appeal to everyone is just to support the team, whatever happens.”
“The mere fact na tinanggap ni Coach Yeng ang trabaho, malaking bagay na sa Pilipino iyon,” said San Miguel Corp. sports director Alfrancis Chua. “Tumulong na lang tayo.”
The team starts its Asian Games campaign on August 16, two days ahead of the formal opening of the quadrennial competition. The Philippines is in Group B, along with United Arab Emirates, Syria and Iran.
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