MANILA, Philippines — Jong Uichico has been a fixture on the sidelines of the Philippine national basketball team—he has been at the helm a couple of times himself.
And with the SEABA just around the corner, the decorated mentor shared that he has been able to scout squads whom Gilas would lock horns with in the international competition slated for next month.
“All of them; Nag-improve sila talaga lahat,” Uichico said when asked about a quick assessment of our regional competitors. “Their level of play (has improved) because they play a lot of games. Unlike before, they only play during their national team tournaments. But now, no. They have tournaments within [their countries] so they get more games.”
“They’ll get better talaga… little by little, they’re catching up, so we always have to be prepared,” added the 54-year-old tactician, who once coached the 2002 and 2013. He now serves as Chot Reyes’ deputy for the fifth iteration of the Gilas program.
Uichico, who has also left an indelible mark in the PBA with nine championships, bared that he has scouted the Indonesian and Malaysian teams.
Always the level-headed guy that he is, Uichico further assessed the aforementioned teams came with a tone of caution.
“In time [the Southeast Asian level] will catch up [with us],” he said. “It’s happened. We were the dominant country in Asia before … Korea, Japan, China, ‘di ba we were ahead of them but they caught up eventually.”
“Now we’re talking about the Southeast Asian region,” he continued. “Yes, we are dominant, but eventually they will catch up if we don’t do our part.”
The 24-man talent pool has kicked their practices up since Monday. Featuring a mixture of professional rookies and veterans, they are now holding training sessions on a nightly basis.
The SEABA Championships will be held from May 12-18 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.