July 22, 2024

GUTS AND GLORY | Scrutiny comes with Gilas duty, but it's time to let the hate go

GUTS AND GLORY | Scrutiny comes with Gilas duty, but it
Art by Royce Nicdao

Presence. Precision.

This was the biggest item on the board of coach Chot Reyes right before the start of the game against the Dominican Republic.

Enjoy the moment. Stay in the present. How you got here doesn’t matter now. What happens tomorrow does not matter either. All there is to think is here and now.

If you’re a member of Gilas Pilipinas in 2023, it’s easy to come into the FIBA Basketball World Cup with a lot of baggage.

Take Kiefer Ravena, for example. Every article written about him will be bombarded with negative comments.

Puro dribble. Paborito lang ni Coach Chot. Maraming iba na mas deserving.

A guy seated a few rows behind me at the Philippine Arena, booed with all his might when Ravena was introduced.

If Ravena was made of weaker stuff, he would have just packed his bags and left. Why spend his off season, the few weeks per year he could spend with his family, punishing himself in training and taking all the nastiness online? He stayed because he felt he can still contribute. He stayed because the comments of a few haters were not enough to convince him to stay away from serving the country, something he has done tirelessly throughout his career.

In the second quarter of the game against the Dominican Republic, Ravena showed why he is still here. He scored a basket, got a steal, and picked up a couple of assists to help Gilas.

The guy behind me? He must’ve temporarily forgotten his hate as he applauded throughout the run that allowed Gilas to take the lead with Ravena on the floor.

Take coach Chot Reyes as another example.

There were loud voices questioning Gilas Pilipinas from the start of training camp. From the selection of some of the members of the pool to the level of competition in the tune-up games, every step was met with intense scrutiny.

June Mar Fajardo is old and not fit for international competition.

The Ravenas are only in the pool because they were Reyes’ favorites.

Going up against U22 teams does nothing for the team.

Calvin Oftana and RR Pogoy are only there so TNT will have representatives.

Every post on Facebook, every tweet on X about the team will always have a ton of negative comments and most of the viciousness was headed Coach Chot’s way.

He was booed loudly again, not just by the guy behind me but by a handful of people, when he was first shown on the big screen. But none of that matters if you stay in the present.

Decisions made in the Philippines' 87-81 loss to the Dominican Republic will be picked apart and analyzed endlessly. The Coach Chot critics will surely second guess every decision and there’s no way to prove them wrong because hindsight is always 20-20.

Could he have played Cjay Perez? Sure.

Could he have fielded Rhenz Abando and Kai Sotto a bit more? Absolutely.

Could he have relied less on Jordan Clarkson handling the ball? I guess.

Every opinion, after a loss, feels like it’s the correct answer that would have led to a win.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

The decisions Coach Chot and the rest of his staff made during the game gave Gilas a legitimate shot at winning.

Forcing Karl-Anthony Towns to 31% shooting from the field, taking Lester Quiñones out of the equation, and having a fourth quarter lead against the team ranked 23rd in the world compared to our 40th meant that for everything that, in your opinion, were wrong, there were a lot of things that the team did right.

It’s okay to be critical. That’s to be expected from a country that breathes basketball. We will always have discussions, disagreements even, on a variety of things. But we need to let the hate go.

Maybe some fans are still not over what happened in the last few years. Maybe losing the gold to Indonesia and struggling in the FIBA Asia Cup still sting even if Gilas has picked up high-quality wins in the Asian Qualifiers and has regained the SEA Games gold.

But maybe we need to take a page from Coach Chot’s pre-game. Maybe we need to be in the present as well. Hosting the World Cup might never happen again in our lifetimes. Getting the chance to cheer for Gilas against world-class opposition feels like a once-in-a-lifetime event. Maybe it’s time to let go of the past and just enjoy the ride.

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