July 22, 2024

Gilas missing mark so far in SEA Games ‘redemption tour’

Gilas missing mark so far in SEA Games ‘redemption tour’

Gilas Pilipinas is supposed to be hellbent on redeeming itself after last year’s debacle at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

But with the 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia set to begin in just a little over a week, it appears there is nothing redeeming about the way Gilas is approaching the games—at least not yet.

Redemption is supposed to be the act of atoning for a mistake, of making up for an error. Unfortunately, Gilas is not doing that. In fact, it is repeating the same mistake it committed not only last year, but even in years past.

That mistake is not having the foresight for preparation.

Yet again, the national team will be entering a tournament with very little preparation—two weeks at the most in this case since Gilas’ first game is on May 9. It could be less, in fact, because as of press time, Gilas coach Chot Reyes has not even named the players that will comprise the Philippines’ version of the Redeem Team.

Yes, the SEA Games is two weeks away, and the team that will look to reclaim regional gold has not been named. That is not exactly a winning formula, not with Indonesia, Thailand, and even Vietnam all getting better at hoops. In fact, this lack of preparation, which has been a perennial problem for pretty much every iteration of Gilas in the last five years or so, is a recipe for disaster.

Just ask last year’s team, which practiced for only three weeks. It then went on to lose, 85-81, to Indonesia in the final day of the tournament, in the process giving up the country's stranglehold of regional hoops supremacy. It was historic for the wrong reasons, as the Philippines had dominated SEA Games basketball in the years prior, winning gold in 18 out of the previous 20 tournaments. The last time it did not win SEA Games gold, in fact, was 1989. Since then, the Philippines had won 13 straight, until Indonesia broke the streak last year a brand of basketball nurtured by adequate preparation.

That Gilas team had three weeks of preparation. This one, in contrast, will get a week or two only.

There are obviously extenuating factors at play, like the PBA Governors’ Cup bleeding well into the final days of April, the unavailability of hoops exports such as Dwight Ramos, and stars like Jamie Malonzo begging off.

Gilas, though, should be past the point of making excuses out of these unfortunate circumstances. It has been doing this long enough. It should know better. It should be getting things done—challenges and all.  

Of course, it is entirely possible that Gilas regains the gold in the SEA Games off sheer talent alone.

That would still count as redemption in a way. Then again, no bad habits would have been rectified. 

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