A nightmare, not a curse

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - Associated Press
A nightmare, not a curse
I said it isn’t a “curse” but a recurring nightmare from where someday soon, Philippine basketball will wake up and just brush it off as a bad dream.
Joey Mendoza / File

The other night, I joined Lourd de Veyra and sports journalist Francis Ochoa in taping an episode of Cignal TV’s “Step Back.” During the show, we talked about the so-called South Korean “curse” that has haunted Philippine basketball for years and showed footage of a 1982 PBA Invitational Conference game between Toyota and the visiting South Korean national team.

I said it isn’t a “curse” but a recurring nightmare from where someday soon, Philippine basketball will wake up and just brush it off as a bad dream. I honestly believe that with adequate preparation, the Philippines will beat South Korea anytime, anywhere, no matter how sharp those Korean shooters are. The Philippines is scientifically more advanced in the sport and Filipino players are more skilled and understand the nuances of the game better. The reason why South Korea won in the last FIBA Asia Cup and Asian Games is because the Koreans were better prepared with months of training time compared to weeks, in some players’ cases, days, for the Philippines. 

Take for instance the last Asian Games. Jordan Clarkson started practicing with the Philippine team after the competitions began, not before, while the Koreans opened camp at the start of the year. Ricardo Ratliffe has played in Korea since 2012 so breaking him in as a naturalized import was no problem.  Despite the disparity in preparation time, the Philippines was ahead by one entering the fourth period and if the Koreans didn’t control the offensive boards for multiple opportunities down the stretch, the outcome could’ve been different. As it turned out, Korea hit four triples in the final seven minutes and the Philippines, missing the services of bigs JuneMar Fajardo and Andray Blatche, collapsed. Coach Yeng Guiao had a gameplan laid out to break South Korea’s back and it nearly worked except he was one or two big men short of sealing the deal. When Fajardo and Greg Slaughter are activated, it could be a different ending the next time around.

South Korea plays a mechanical, if not automatic, style with outside shooters ready to fire. The Philippines is more free-wheeling. The Koreans are more team-oriented with a militaristic discipline. The Philippines likes to improvise, go one-on-one and play with flair. Only once has South Korea brought in a foreign coaching consultant, Jeff Gausepohl of Virginia Military, for the 1968 Olympics while the Philippines has experimented with foreigners like Rajko Toroman and Tab Baldwin. The Koreans have enlisted Korean-Americans Eric Sandrin and the Stevenson brothers Moon Tae Jong and Moon Tae Young but Ratliffe is their first naturalized import.

The South Korea-Philippines feud started at the FIBA Asia Cup, then known as the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Championships, in Seoul in 1967. The Philippines, coached by Caloy Loyzaga, upset the hometown squad, 83-80 as ace guard Ed Ocampo held the hot-shooting Shin Dong Pa to 12 points. From then on, it seemed like the Koreans were hell bent to go all out to beat the Philippines whenever they meet. It was, after all, a humiliation for South Korea to lose at home. At the next ABC tournament in 1969, the Koreans got their revenge and beat the Philippines, 95-86, with Shin exploding for 48 points. The Philippines got back at South Korea by winning the 1973 edition in Manila then came a succession of Korean victories, including the one-point cliffhanger in the 1986 Asian Games semifinals, another one-point heartbreaker in the 2002 Asian Games semifinals and a third one-point thriller at the 2014 Asian Games. South Korea also won, 82-80, at the 2009 FIBA Asia Cup and 70-68 at the 2011 FIBA Asia Cup. 

The Philippines retaliated with an 86-79 win in the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup semifinals but was beaten in the quarterfinals of both the 2017 edition and the recent Asian Games. The 2017 result was a 32-point annihilation.

Through the years, South Korea has produced a slew of outstanding gunners, including Shin, Lee Chung Hee who averaged 22.8 points and torched Yugoslavia with 38 at the 1988 Olympics, Hur Jae who shot 54 points against Egypt at the 1990 FIBA World Cup, Kim Ming Goo who hit 27 points against the Philippines at the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup, Cho Sung Min, Lee Sang Min who hit the killer triple at the 2002 Asian Games semifinals, Oh Sekeun, Lee Seung Hyun, Kim Sunhyung and Jeon Jun Beom. South Korea also took 7-3 Ha Seung Jin to the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers.

For sure, you’ll find the discussion and the footage of the Toyota-South Korea PBA game interesting. Check your Cignal TV listings on when the “Step Back” episode will air over the PBA Rush channel.






  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with