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Foreign media awed by Gilas

Alvaro Martin

SEVILLE – The Philippine national basketball team has impressed foreign media with its style of play at the FIBA World Cup and ESPN’s Alvaro Martin said the other day he wouldn’t be surprised if Gilas players, particularly 6-5 and under, are approached by scouts for contracts in overseas leagues.

Greek journalist Rigas Dardalis said Gilas’ record is deceptive because the Philippines’ showing was outstanding. “I think the outcome of the Philippines’ games was not indicative of how the team played,” he said. Dardalis mentioned that the Philippines is two or three experienced players short of becoming a winning team on the global stage.

“I noticed in the end game, the team struggled because there was no experienced player to make the right decisions,” said Dardalis. “Now, the world is realizing that Filipinos play good basketball. Filipinos play to their advantage. They use quickness, good outside shooting. But in the international game, experience is a big factor.” The Philippines hadn’t played at the FIBA World Cup since 1978 and it showed in the way Gilas faltered down the stretch in close losses to Croatia in overtime, Argentina and Puerto Rico.

Martin, who joined ESPN in 1991 and worked the FIBA coverage for the international feed here, said he’s not surprised by the Philippines’ showing. “This was like a getting-to-know-you,” he said. “It’s only now that the world is seeing how Filipinos play basketball after a long absence. I understand the Philippines qualified for the FIBA World Cup in 1986 but withdrew from participating.”

It was explained to Martin that after the EDSA Revolution in 1986, the country underwent a major overhaul and the national team’s participation at the FIBA World Cup was compromised. The 1986 FIBA World Cup was held in Spain. How appropriate that the Philippines has returned to the FIBA World Cup in Spain after the withdrawal 28 years ago.

“Every player has his own quality,” said Martin, declining to single out any one Filipino player as a standout. “What I saw was the coach (Chot Reyes) wasn’t afraid of experimenting with combinations. That usually isn’t done by other coaches especially with NBA players.” Martin said NBA veteran Carlos Arroyo of Puerto Rico sat out the Greece and Philippine games because of a right ankle injury even as an MRI showed no serious damage.      

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Martin said at first, he thought Andray Blatche’s recruitment was a stunt. “I know NBA players visit Manila during the offseason,” he said. “I think it’s perfect that Blatche is playing for the Philippines. He’s fitting in. This isn’t a one-shot deal. I can see Blatche getting an NBA deal soon and coming back to play for the Philippines for FIBA events. It’s working out. It’s one of the best things that’s happened for Philippine basketball.”

Martin said Gilas plays with the same intensity, regardless of the score. “They don’t care about the score,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re ahead or behind or what the margin is. They go out there and just play. It’s exciting basketball. When I cover the Philippines on FIBA TV, I have to pace myself because they play a very exciting game.”

Martin has a Master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University and anchors the ESPN Deportes telecast of the NFL and NBA. He is Puerto Rican and lives in New York City. Martin was assigned to broadcast the Group B games in Seville.

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