Yoyong: It’s all about heart
Yoyong: It’s all about heart
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 7, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - PBA legend Rosalio (Yoyong) Martirez said yesterday winning the FiBA-Asia championship is all about heart and Gilas can go all the way if the host national team sets its mind to bag the gold.

Martirez, 65, was on the Philippine squad that took the FIBA-Asia (then known as the Asian Basketball Confederation) title when Manila last hosted the conclave in 1973 or 40 years ago. “Let’s not wait another 40 years to win,” he said in Pilipino. “It’s our time now. We’ve got all the elements of a champion team – the players, coaches, support, homecrowd and experience. It’s like a 5-in-1 coffee mix. We shouldn’t just aim for third place, let’s go all out for the championship because we can do it.”

Martirez said playing at this high level of competition is like going to war. “It’s against the law to get tired, anyway each game is only 40 minutes long so everyone should give his all,” he said. “In our team, everyone is just as good as the other. No matter if you’re a benchwarmer or the 12th man, if the coach sends you in, you give your best effort. I think all the teams are equally good. If you prick someone from another team with a needle, he’ll bleed red, if you prick anyone from our team, he’ll also bleed red. What sets a player apart from the other is toughness. It’s time to sacrifice, forget your wife, forget your family. This is about playing for your country, not just for yourself. You stake your life in every game. Only when it’s over, you go home.”

The Pasig Councilor and former Vice Mayor who played in 10 PBA seasons said defense is what will propel Gilas to the top. “A good defense is a good offense,” he said. “In terms of focus, we should give 65 percent concentration on defense and 35 percent on offense. When we played Korea’s Shin Dong Pa in 1973, we knew once he got the ball, it was a sure two points. He could score 50 in a game easily. All his teammates did was to provide screens so we had to step in to challenge every pick.”

It was Gilas’ lack of aggressiveness in defense that led Chinese-Taipei to an 84-79 win last Saturday, he rued. “We were up by 13 starting the fourth period then we lost our aggressiveness in both defense and offense,” said Martirez. “When you’re ahead by 13, you step all over your opponent and finish him off. You can’t lose focus. Defense starts with pressure in the backcourt, make it difficult for the guard to cross the line. If you take out 10 seconds from their execution, that’s big. You just have to clog the middle so the guard can’t pass it inside.”

When the Philippines won in 1973, Martirez said coach Tito Eduque’s motto was “thou shalt not pass” in defense. “We made it hard for teams to execute,” he said. “No easy shots, no passing. We stuck to our man-to-man. We never quit. When the pick came, we shouted to cover for each other. We communicated on the floor, we trusted each other. We broke up screens and made sure we never got trapped. We practiced thrice a day to get ourselves ready, we just couldn’t lose.”

Martirez said it’s still a long way to go before the end of the tournament. “We can do it,” he said. “Winning the FIBA-Asia title is not an impossible dream but we have to work hard to do it, to sacrifice. I notice with other teams, once a shooter gets the ball, his two feet are already facing the basket, he’s ready to shoot. With us, sometimes we get the ball out of position and we’re forced to dribble first before shooting. Other teams don’t dribble anymore, they shoot before the defense sets up. That’s something we should work on.”

On guard play, Martirez said the goal is to drive and penetrate. “Every opportunity, we should use our quickness to drive in,” he said. “We shouldn’t just settle for the outside shot because if we miss, we might not get another chance. (Marcus) Douthit must be in position to receive the pass inside once we penetrate or we could kick out to an open shooter like (Larry) Fonacier or (Jeff) Chan or (Gary) David or (Ranidel) de Ocampo. We have quick guards in (Jayson) Castro, (L. A.) Tenorio and (Jimmy) Alapag. They should set the pace for the game, make it run-and-gun and force the other team to play our style.”

In the PBA, Martirez played on two championship teams, Royal Tru-Orange with coach Ed Ocampo in 1979 and San Miguel Beer with coach Tommy Manotoc in 1982. The title runs were the highlights of his pro career. Martirez retired from the PBA in 1984 with Countryfair and compiled 753 career steals in 326 games, ranking sixth in the all-time standings as of today. In 1977, he averaged a career-high 11.8 points. In his final season, Martirez compiled 140 assists and 51 steals in 21 games. He will always be remembered for his up-tempo style, pesky defense and dizzying assists as one of the greatest point guards ever in Philippine basketball history.

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