Gilas’ secret weapon in 2014 FIBA World Cup?
SPORTS FOR ALL - Philip Ella Juico (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2014 - 12:00am

We’ve always insisted that, “sport is science”. Those who can avail themselves of science and technology and use science in the most innovative and creative way will certainly have a tremendous if not insurmountable advantage over competitors. They can even revolutionize the industry.

What’s with this innovation and marketing? Well, it’s not every day that I get a proposition from an old friend from way back. He had emailed me prior to our meeting and I thought I had misread his email. Intrigued by the attempt of my friend to use science and innovation in sports, specifically basketball, we invited the fellow over for Coke Zero last week. I wanted to hear him out just to make sure.

The visit was about this gaming app his company has a copyright on and is developing for a mid-year launch. My friend was thinking that this development should be of interest to me and Gilas management because that happens to be around the time of the FIBA World Cup in Spain. And this game app whose consumer version he will be launching in June is, by some thinly veiled coincidence, called “Virtual Basketball”.

And if that sounds nerdy, it is indeed nerdy. It is in fact, basketball seen through the eyes of computer geeks and nerds. Just get a load of the supposed objective of this game. It’s not the usual contest of “outscoring the opponent” but rather, the challenge is for “the player-coach (the player of the app acting as coach of the home team playing against the computer serving as coach of the visiting team) to secure an irreversible positive point advantage for his team.”

In regular basketball talk this translates loosely into having a minimum one-point lead at the end of the game that is deemed “irreversible” simply because the game clock is dead, time has expired. But this not the case in “Virtual Basketball” where it is not anymore the 10 minutes that the gallery sees on the game clock that rules but what the algorithm inside that reads a mix of probabilities, tendencies, options of the opposing team, stacked against one’s team. Inside that computer, the state of an irreversible point has been reached to signal that “Virtual Basketball” has another virtual winner.

But what’s the point? What has knowing about virtual winners got to do with real world challenges in Spain in August?

Just this, said this friend of mine who will remain nameless for now – it is all about seeing things that the other team doesn’t. What does one make of a tip that you are one good possession short of securing an irreversible point advantage or, simply, being a point away from a win? It’s time to tell the guys on court to no longer think field goals but to start being creative at running the clock. It’s all about preparing for opportunities on court that the other teams never knew existed – never, because it will be our guys creating those opportunities themselves. They will be creating all these openings on cue because they have been working on these moves (such as “boxing in”) all summer long. 

This is however not to say that Chot Reyes and his coaching staff do away with their main training and workout plans, his entire playbook for August. On the contrary, he should stick to them by all means. What this app adds is a bonus - in addition to what Reyes and company already have. These are plays that will catch Croatia, Senegal, Greece, Argentina etc by surprise.

And surprise, as we all know, is the lethal weapon of choice of great generals, and according to my friend, wily Romeos. And yes, it can be used by practical-minded coaches who can use an extra 10 points for really big games, and come to think of it, this practically means all the games in Group B.

And this app is saying these 10 points or more, are always there for the taking, if Gilas work on the moves well enough and master them. But I ask my friend, what’s the big deal on those 10 extra points for the taking?

In response, my friend looks us in the eye and lays down his other condition, aside from being nameless for now, at least until the professional version of the app has been launched by yearend. That way, secret weapons remain secret for as long as possible. And with a swig from his can of Coke Zero, explains in some detail what this “Virtual Basketball” can do for the national team (and the nation) this August beginning with showing the guys how to pick up 10 points that are there just for the taking.

Intriguing. Especially now that we’re given the choice to either drop the whole thing as one big joke or continue on and share with Reyes a way to neutralize the rebounding monster from Senegal. Wouldn’t he be caught flat-footed if the missed shot went nowhere near his favorite spot in the paint but near the mid-court where Ocampo has positioned himself?

Correction, this app would say that, that was not a missed shot. That was one heck of a bounce pass (in disguise)!

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