Freeman Cebu Sports

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BLEACHER TALK - Rico S. Navarro - The Freeman

What a ride it has been indeed for the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP). From the turbulent times when Pinoy Basketball was on the downhill part of a roller coaster ride, it sure looks like it is now in good hands more than ever. Yes, biased I am but after attending an SBP workshop, a board meeting and a national congress the past two days, I can’t help but be proud with what we’re seeing so far. I speak after having experienced attending the tense-filled 2007 national congress that sought to re-engineer/create a brand new national sports association for Philippine Basketball; listen/read all the sad news about the ongoing squabbling at the Philippine Olympic Committee, and deciding to take a direct hand in developing Cebu youth basketball since 2008.

With a clear direction on what it wanted to achieve, the SBP embarked on an ambitious campaign to take Philippine basketball to greater heights. Make no mistake about it. The organization isn’t perfect and does have improvement areas that it needs to address. But I’ll take this over the thought of having the old NSA that had outlived itself due to plain incompetence and a lack of passion to do it all for the country. The journey since 2007 has been a rough one and has gone through a lot of heartaches and pains, but has managed to plod on to hit a series of important milestones that paved the way for what we’re experiencing today. A key milestone was getting the confidence and trust of the FIBA, the very same mother unit that suspended Philippine Basketball for “unsportsmanlike conduct” (to use a technical basketball term). Today, Pinoys occupy key posts at the FIBA. Manny Pangilinan sits in the powerful FIBA Central Board. Jimmy Alapag is now with the FIBA Players Commission. Dr. George Canlas is with the FIBA Medical Commission. Atty. Aga Francisco is part of the FIBA Legal Commission. SBP President Al Panlilio is the FIBA Asia 2nd Vice President. SBP Director for Operations Butch Antonio is Vice President of the SEABA.

Another milestone was when the Philippines qualified for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain by winning over South Korea in a “cardiac” semifinal round game at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships at the MOA Arena. THE game had the entire country united and lifted us back to the World Cup where the top 16 nations of the world converged (last time we joined the big boys was in 1978, but that was because we were hosts). We may have won only game in 2014, but being there to play against (and scaring) Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico was like winning a championship already. Buoyed by a successful hosting of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, the country hosted the FIBA Olympic Qualifier in 2016, bringing in teams from France, Canada, Turkey, Angola and Senegal; Gilas Pilipinas was part of it as host. Again, we may not have qualified for the 2016 Olympics, but Gilas made us Pinoys proud. More importantly, it proved that the Philippines can do a great job of hosting international-level competitions.

And how can we ever forget the latest FIBA World Cup Qualifier where Gilas Pilipinas earned a second straight ticket to the FIBA World Cup, and doing so at the last hour? And so it’s off to China for Gilas Pilipinas from August 31 to September 4 for its group-level games.

3X3 basketball is a huge opportunity area for us, but the good news is that it’s finally taking off after a sluggish start. We’ve already hosted a FIBA 3X3 World Cup in 2018, and a FIBA Asia Pacific 3X3 Leg. But the more exciting goal for 3X3 is to make it to the Olympics where 3X3 is now an official event. Since it’s almost impossible to qualify in the regular game, it’s very achievable for 3X3 hoops. The key is to make it to the top 20 of the FIBA 3X3 rankings. Chooks to Go has taken the lead in this goal, organizing a series of too-level 3X3 events and is sending teams to compete abroad. All these will mean more points earned for the country and improving the country’s rankings.

It doesn’t end there! There’s a bigger, more exciting event coming up. The country is hosting the FIBA World Cup in 2023, along with Indonesia and Japan. The top 32 countries are coming over: 16 to the Philippines and eight each to Indonesia and Japan. Yes, the world’s best players are coming over! Consider ourselves blessed for being given the chance to watch the world’s best play on our shores. With Pinoy pride, we’re going to make it bigger, bolder and louder than ever.

Today, the SBP has re-structured itself to face up to the challenges of the dynamic basketball world. It has now embarked on setting up clear-cut departments that have been given specific goals and tasks: Gilas Men’s, Gilas Women’s, Gilas Youth, 3X3, Coaches Academy and the Referees Academy. It has also worked on gathering stakeholders of the sport to be on the same wavelength to unite for the country and the sport. Just when one thought that the SBP was done, think again. It’s finding ways to become a more productive, efficient and topnotch NSA/national sports association. Perfect? Nah. Determined? Klaro kaayo.

Looking back, the SBP has come a long, long way, hasn’t it? The driving force?

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