Schools and teams not allowing their players to join the national team has been a prevalent problem in Philippine basketball.
Even decorated head coach Franz Pumaren was a victim of that back in 2008 when he was handling the Philippine Under-18 Boys National Basketball Team, then known as the Nokia Youth Team.
Pumaren was tasked to coach the team headed to the 2008 FIBA Asia Under-18 Championship.
“It’s a learning part on my job as a coach because that was the first time that I was coaching a younger group, parang high school lang yan eh,” recalled Pumaren during last Thursday’s episode of Coaches Unfiltered, presented by SMART Sports and supported by Mighty Sports and Choi Garden.
Hundreds of high school prospects and college freshmen joined tryouts of the team. But two particular players did not attend any of the month-long sessions — 2008’s top prospect Ryan Buenafe and 2009’s ace Arvie Bringas. Both of whom played for San Sebastian Recoletos.
The team ended up being composed of future stars Matthew Wright, Ian Sangalang, Norbert Torres, and RR Garcia, to go along with Joseph Terso, Jovet Mendoza, Frank Golla, Mark De Guzman, Joel Tolentino, Papot Paredes, Gab Banal, and Sam Marata.
Nokia ended up finishing with a 2-3 record for eighth place.
Up to this day, Pumaren can’t help but rue not having the likes of those two in his team.
“If only lang during that time other school they were able to sacrifice their personal games, pinahiram yung players, I think we could’ve done much better than that.”
It can be recalled that Pumaren was also blasted during the tail-end of that campaign as he went back home from Tehran, Iran as the father of his good friend Jack Santiago was dying.
Still, he remains proud of what that team had accomplished.
“In spite of that I think we were able to perform quite well in that tournament, I think we placed [eighth],” he shared.
“But if we were able to get the players that were supposed to play for us, those so-called elite players in the high school level, I think we would’ve done much better.”