Cage luminary Ramon Fernandez tipped his hat to the youth-laden Gilas Pilipinas for a remarkable campaign in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
The youngest men’s national team ever assembled defied the odds and displayed maturity beyond their years by winning all three of their games — two of which came at the expense of long-time continental force South Korea.
“I’d like to congratulate them for a job well done,” said the PSC Commissioner in the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum webcast which is powered by SMART, has Upstream media as partner, and presented by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), MILO, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR)
More than what they achieved in Clark, though, Fernandez is glad that young hoopers were given the opportunity to fly the flag.
“I’m glad that finally, these young boys are given the chance to represent the country,” said the 1973 Asian Basketball Confederation Championship gold medalist.
“It’s good for them, for their future, and their careers.”
Now, he hopes to see the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) stick with this kind of set-up for the long run.
“Palagay ko, itong mga bata na ang ipadala natin. Not for anything else but this is thinking long-term. Kung ‘yung mga bata natin i-expose natin sa ganung level of competition, siguradong magi-improve ‘yan,” he said.
There has been some sort of a dispute among pundits whether or not the PBA should remain involved with Gilas. Fernandez doesn’t disregard the pro league’s contributions, although he prefers to keep and hone the current program.
“‘Yung sa mga PBA players naman, magi-improve din sana sila, but hindi kagaya ng improvement nitong mga kabataan na ‘to. Medyo may katigasan na ang buto at muscle ng mga PBA players natin,” the four-time PBA MVP opined.
“But this is a better tact na ginawa ng SBP na ‘yung mga kabataan natin, na future basketball players, para mag-improve din talaga ‘yung quality.”
For ‘El Presidente,’ what the federation is doing at present should have actually been done ‘a long time ago,’ citing experiences from his time to further explain that it is never easy to get pros to play for the national team.
“This should’ve been a long time ago because we know for a fact, we experienced it already na mahirap talaga kumuha ng athletes from the pro ranks to play for the national team,” Fernandez said.
“That’s why lagi kong sinasabi nun, kaya nga nag-umpisa ‘yung PBA eh. Because sa panahon namin, kinukuha kami ng basketball federation, association (Basketball Association of the Philippines) at that time, from our mother teams. So, nadi-distract ‘yung calender ng MICAA (Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association at that time,” continued the 67-year-old living legend.
“So history will repeat itself. It seems we never learn from history eh. ‘Yun ang naging problema. So I’m really glad na itong mga batang ‘to ang ipadala roon.”