Tall Blacks head coach Pero Cameron is very familiar with Philippine basketball.
Besides being a good friend of former Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin, the 47-year-old Kiwi legend has seen how passionate Filipinos are for the sport in his home country.
That is why Cameron was honored that the Tall Blacks got to compete in the historic SMART Araneta Coliseum from February 21-24.
“I live in the Gold Coast, there are numerous Filipino leagues and it’s crazy packed,” he said after the Tall Blacks’ 88-63 win over Gilas. “But the Tall Blacks coming here and playing against Gilas and also India, it’s massive for us.
“I think we played two games in the last two or so years which is a little bit frustrating for all but as we get back to some sort of normality, we can get these games,” he continued.
“I think there’s no better place than to play in this coliseum for its tradition and history and against the Gilas Pilipinas team.”
With his friendship with Baldwin, Cameron is also familiar with the collegiate and pro scene in the country.
Of course, the FIBA Hall of Famer knows Baldwin’s wards in Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, and Angelo Kouame.
“Ramos is always tough, he’s a quality player,” Cameron said about Ramos, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds against the Tall Blacks.
“Thirdy’s good and exciting to watch also,” he remarked about Ravena, who tallied 23 points, five rebounds, five assists, and five steals.
“Look, he’s a tremendous athlete and I think he’s in that role, a young center coming through and he’s doing well,” the legendary power forward said about Kouame. “He’s a very good rim protector. Just a different dynamic, a pick and pop guy.
“And just continuously put him in there with his actions, it’s hard. Just always looking for an advantage for pick and pop.”
But there are two players who Cameron enjoys watching on the floor.
Of course, one is Robert Bolick. But the other comes a surprise in Kib Montalbo.
“I liked the point guards, both point guards actually, the defensive one – Taane’s [Samuel] ex-teammate [Kib Montalbo]. He’s one of my favorite players to watch.”
For Cameron, the future looks bright for Philippine basketball.
“They’ve come on from college and the systems in the Philippines, it’s massive here. It’s good to see and it stands high in the Filipino community.”
With reports from Jeremy Chua