Not end of the world

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Take it from Indonesian basketball program director Rajko Toroman himself. “One loss doesn’t mean the end of the world for Gilas,” said Toroman shortly after Indonesia shocked the Philippines, 84-81, to snatch the gold medal in men’s hoops at the Hanoi SEA Games last Sunday. “Gilas has lots of options to become a superior team with Kai (Sotto), Dwight (Ramos), Ange (Kouame). With Indonesia, that’s it. That’s our team. I expect the Philippines to come back and get good results in FIBA.”

Toroman yielded Indonesia’s head coaching reins to Serbian countryman Milos Pejic but remained in charge of the national team looking to book an automatic ticket to its first-ever FIBA World Cup next year with at least an eighth place finish in the FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta on July 12-24. During the SEA Games gold medal game, Toroman took over most of the coaching down the stretch.

Indonesia lived and could’ve died with the three-point shot, throwing up 31 from beyond the arc compared to only 24 from two-point distance. Indonesia knocked down 13 to the Philippines’ three and the 30-point difference was a killer. Even as Gilas had more paint points, 38-16, Indonesia’s edge from rainbow range was enough cushion for the win. Toroman said the three-point shot is the only weapon Indonesia has to offset the locals’ lack of athleticism and size. “I’m not counting how many three-point shots they make every practice but they know they have to improve every day,” he said. “We brought in two US coaches, one for strength and conditioning and another for technique and skill to work with our players. I know (Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter and Serbian national player) Bogdan Bogdanovich shoots 700 three-pointers every day. It’s all about repetition to improve your percentage.”

Toroman said with 6-10 Marques Bolden and 6-9 Derrick Michael Xzavierro in the lineup, Indonesia finally found the size to compete against tough teams like Gilas. “Derrick is only 19, developed at the NBA Global Academy in Australia, will play for NCAA D-1 school Grand Canyon University and joined us only last April 26 to train for Hanoi,” he said. “Marques has been with us for a month but missed 15 days of practice because of ankle and back problems. Before the Gilas game, we didn’t know if he could play or not. He took a lot of pain killers and missed the first four games then against Vietnam, played five minutes. For Gilas, we didn’t start him because we thought we could play him only 10 minutes. We also didn’t start Derrick because we were afraid that if Marques couldn’t play long minutes, he wouldn’t last defending June Mar (Fajardo). I was totally surprised that Marques played as long as he did. He’s a smart player with a high basketball IQ, skilled and talented but probably lacked power to stay in the NBA. He’s only 24 and he has a solid background playing three years at Duke University under coach Mike Krzyzewski.”

Against Gilas, Bolden picked up his fourth foul with 5:27 left in the third quarter. The former Cleveland Cavalier would’ve fouled out if the refs didn’t bail him out, time down to 6:56, when he clearly held down Fajardo in a rebound play with Indonesia on top, 69-67. After Bolden escaped disqualification in the fourth frame, he went on to score six points and grab four rebounds to ice it for Indonesia. If Bolden fouled out, it would’ve been a different ending.

“I told our players in the first five or six minutes of the game, show they’re not afraid of Gilas,” said Toroman. “When it was over, the players were crying. It was a great victory, Indonesia’s first basketball gold medal in SEA Games history. In my 35 years of coaching, it was so exciting for me. We surprised everyone.”


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