Rajko Toroman isn’t changing the way he looks at Gilas even after the same program he helped build failed to extend the Philippines’ dominion in Southeast Asian Games men’s hoops following a loss against his own team Sunday.
His Indonesia emerged as the new kings of the region after dealing the ASEAN powerhouse an 85-81 defeat at the Thanh Tri Gymnasium in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“One mere loss doesn’t mean that the program is not good,” Timnas’ program director told PlayItRight TV just a few hours after their historic victory.
Toroman believes that Gilas will only be fueled to do better moving forward after the defeat, offering that it may field a much stronger team come the much-awaited 2022 FIBA Asia Cup to be held in Jakarta from July 12 to 24.
The Serbian mentor cited the absences of players such as Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, and Ange Kouame, all of which were part of the all-amateur team that beat Indonesia in the Asia Cup Qualifiers in Clark last year.
Sotto wasn’t added to the Nationals’ SEA Games pool to focus more on his NBA Draft preparations. Kouame was with Ateneo for the UAAP Season 84 wars, while Ramos had to beg off because of B.League-related matters.
“Probably, they will make a better team for FIBA Asia,” the former Gilas shot-caller said. “You know, Kai Sotto was not here, Dwight Ramos was not here, some great guys that I respect. Kouame was not here.
“You know, they have a lot of options to change some of the guys and make a stronger team and they will do that for sure, especially after this loss. But us? We cannot change anybody. The 12 players that we had now, that’s it.”
Toroman expects no less than redemption from the Philippine team, since it remains ‘one of the best teams in Asia’ in his eyes.
“I think that one loss doesn’t mean the end of the world. Gilas will be back,” said the 67-year-old.
“They’re one of the best teams in Asia.”
For now, though, Toroman and Timnas are basking in the glory of a feat that will surely have their names etched in Indonesian basketball history.
“When you beat a strong team like the Philippines, it’s exciting because Gilas is so competitive,” he said. “It’s not every time that Indonesia can beat Gilas.
“You know, I’m an experienced coach, I’ve been here for thirty-five years, but it still makes me excited. When I saw our players in the locker room, what it means to them and for the country, I was really happy for the guys.”
Toroman acknowledges that Indonesia may have surprised a lot with an upset for the ages, but he has always believed in his team’s capabilities — his wards swept all six of their assignments on the way to the gold medal.
“It’s a big surprise that we beat a big basketball country like the Philippines in the final of the SEA Games. But if you look all over the tournament I think that we played very good basketball until the end,” he said.