Vic Manuel and Gilas Pilipinas were all puzzled when the bruising forward got assessed with an unsportsmanlike foul during their 30th Southeast Asian Games men’s basketball semifinal clash with Indonesia, Monday evening.
The call on Manuel came with 6:46 left in the payoff period, while he tried to carve space inside for a shot. That then led to Juan Laurent Kokodeputra’s trip to the charity stripe, and he did not waste the opportunity by sinking both.
“Na-ano nga ako eh ba’t may tawag na ganun, wala naman contact,” the Alaska Aces star said. “Siguro kailangan maging lesson sa ‘kin, manipis tawag nila. Wala naman tama, tinawagan ng ganun.
“Siguro bukas, ingat na lang.”
Fortunately, though, the call didn’t change the game’s complexity, since it happened with the match everything but settled. It also didn’t disrupt the performance of Manuel, as he had already done damage to their foes.
Manuel had another solid outing, finishing with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He was a major factor in the Filipino dribblers’ 97-70 victory that put them in the position to win the Philippines’ 18th SEAG gold medal.
He was so good that Indonesia coach and Gilas pioneer Rajko Toroman compared him to Serbian star Nikola Jokic — Yes, the Nikola Jokic who has become one of the best big men in the NBA today with the Denver Nuggets.
“You saw Manuel, Vic Manuel was like Jokic. We can’t stop him inside. He was unstoppable.”
Upon hearing such, Manuel couldn’t help but chuckle. “Jokic? Grabe naman. Mataba ‘yun eh. Chubby ‘yun eh. Grabe naman. Siguro kung maging Jokic ako, kulang na lang ‘yung mga assists,” he said, drawing laughter from reporters.
Turning serious, Manuel and Gilas have their sights set on Tuesday night, where they will face Thailand for the gold.
“Kailangan talaga dumepensa kami bukas,” said Manuel, whose side has been limiting its opponents by an average of 66.0 points.
“Yung Thailand, offensive-minded talaga sila eh. Execution na lang importante bukas.”