SEVILLE, Spain – In a lanai garden on the first floor of the Melia Lebreros Hotel here, cold morning air blowing softly above him and synthetic green grass firm under his feet, PBA commissioner Chito Salud talked about what has now become obvious for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
“We need to improve our outside shooting if we want to continue to compete at this level,” Salud said during the tournament break Tuesday. “And we have to make sure our free throws are automatic.”
Paging Gilas coach Chot Reyes.
Salud’s analysis is backed by the two preliminary round games the national team came tantalizingly close to winning – against Croatia where Jeff Chan turned the heat on with four 3-pointers and against Argentina where Jimmy Alapag lit up the Palacio Municipal de Deportes San Pablo with five triples in the second half.
The PBA, however, is not the place, Salud said, where marksmanship is taught and nurtured.
“I think it’s really too late to develop shooters when they reach the pro level,” he said. “It has to be started when they are very young. Take those three-point shooters and teach them. They say this is a big man’s game. Having that outside shooting improved, we make it less of a big man’s game.”
Salud arrived a few days ahead of the PBA Board of Governors and found it irresistible marveling at what Gilas Pilipinas has accomplished despite three straight losses.
“I came here really wondering where we are at,” Salud said. “The kind of basketball that we play, where are in so far as world competition is concerned; I didn’t know. Now we know. We can compete with the best. And if continue competing at this level, I won’t be surprised if we get a win or two soon.”
Salud made clear he isn’t referring to the ongoing competition nor the forthcoming Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea “but the tournaments yet to come.”
So impressed is Salud by what he had witnessed that he has pledged to “continue lending PBA players (to the national team) and allowing them to train as long as possible.”
A balancing and synchronization of the Gilas and PBA calendars is imperative though, he said.
From last year’s FIBA Asia Championship at the Mall of Asia Arena, which the Philippines used as springboard to qualify to the World Cup, the PBA had stretched a normal three-conference, 10 ½-month season to three conferences in eight months, resulting in a cramped six days a week playdate.
“Actually four conferences in 11 months from the time the FIBA Asia ended,” Salud said.
Already the PBA had asked the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, whose president, telecommunications tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, bankrolls the Gilas program, for a list of tournaments it plans to compete in next year even as the pro league prepares for its 40th season on October 19.
“What we do is we set our own calendar and send it to SBP and Gilas for them to tell us which tournaments would be in conflict with our schedule so we could adjust,” Salud said.
“Unfortunately they still could not pinpoint the exact dates because they vary every now and then depending on FIBA’s own planning. Chot’s guess is late August to early September in China for the qualifying tournament to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.”