Philippines, 13 Dec 2019
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Reynoso: PH Basketball Should Have Learned From Spain

Spain celebrates after winning the FIBA 2019 World Cup.

With the supposedly still mighty Team USA bombing not really unexpectedly out of the medals race in the recent FIBA World Basketball Cup, not much was heard of our own Gilas laying a big fat egg and of Spain (again) winning the championship trophy.

The US in truth was forced (again) to field a motley team as most of the NBA millionaire superstars begged off for varying reasons including injuries and giving way for others to represent the flag.

Gilas in fairness was comprised by a combination of holdovers and newcomers on account mainly of the same reasons.

Spain on the other hand was bannered by its old reliables especially many time national team regulars Marc Gasol and the now no longer youthful Ricky Rubio, both NBA stars in their own right.

Many now may no longer remember the days back in the 60s when the Philippines and Spain were on the same boat: Both countries had very good basketball players but lacked the size to compete against teams from the Americas and other countries in Europe.

In fact, Spain with the support of the Philippines, advocated and urged FIBA for the institution of international and global tournaments with size classification.

To drive home this point, Spain introduced and hosted an annual international cage tournament with an average overall height limit of 6-2 which was exclusive to countries with low team ceiling.

Known as the Noel, it was held every December during Christmas season with the Philippines participating in all staging fielding teams made up of players from the then MICAA powerhouses YCO and Ysmael Steel that included Robert Jaworski and Freddie Webb.

Spain was represented chiefly by its top club team Real Madrid which was essentially or virtually the Spanish national squad.

Nothing came out of this advocacy, however, as the FIBA stuck to basketball as it was originally conceived, without size limits or classification, the only main constraint being that professional players were not allowed to play in its sanctioned tournaments, mainly the Worlds and the Olympics.

Spain did not allow this setback to prevent it from moving forward and promoting the sport locally and coming up with a national team strong enough to compete with the best of the world.

While trying to develop good players from among its population not really bereft of big tall men, Spain resorted to the immediately doable, that was to adopt and field a couple of naturalized cagers, both Americans in the succeeding qualification tournaments which proved successful as it earned ticket to the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

The Philippine side then felt betrayed by their former advocacy ally that resulted in some of our players attacking those naturalized players after their game won lopsided by the Spanish side due largely to the presence of the two American naturalized behemoths.

Little did we know then that we will adopt the same resort a dozen years later when appointed basketball czar Danding Cojuangco recruited and effected the naturalization of a few American cagers to beef up the NCC squad which became our national team.

But the same resort was abandoned after EDSA in 1986, resurrected only under the Gilas program.

Meanwhile Spain later on dispensed with this resort as it began to churn out very good to excellent taller and bigger players from its youth through Real Madrid and continuous improvement in the competitive balance in its major collegiate and commercial leagues which are now among the strongest in Europe and the world.

Most significantly, it continued with the policy and strategy of maintaining a permanent national team which it sustained with regular international exposure playing together albeit the fact that most of its members play for different club teams at home, in Europe and even the NBA.

Hence many of its players have been of service to the flag and country for years even decades now.

There is really no substitute for playing together and regular exposure to high level international play on sustained basis. Supported at home by a backbone of well balanced and highly competitive collegiate and semi pro/pro leagues that would provide a steady supply of fresh talents.

It is in those areas where we seem to not learn our lessons.

We still do not have a permanent national team like that of Spain and other countries.

There are still no regular and sustained international exposure for our national teams.

We keep changing the composition of our national teams.

Our top collegiate leagues and even the PBA are so imbalanced that the same teams have been lording it over. That has an effect of engendering a false sense of superiority among those teams and their top players, some of whom are even considered as national team materials or regulars.

Instead of developing our big men to adopt to international play, we have become very dependent on our naturalized imports.

We really should have learned from Spain which once upon a time share our predicament.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.

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