A quartet of former Gilas Pilipinas stars knows that it will take a lot of effort for the country to make its way back to the world basketball map.
Gilas heroes Jeff Chan, Gary David, LA Tenorio and Larry Fonacier said the current national team members must work hard and develop their chemistry early to come up with a strong performance in the FIBA World Cup that the country will co-host with Indonesia and Japan next year.
Chan, Tenorio and Fonacier are part of the most successful Gilas squad ever.
They played together in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship in which they pulled off a dramatic semifinal victory over bitter rival South Korea to lead the country to the 2014 FIBA World Championships for the first time in nearly four decades.
With National Basketball Association stalwart Andray Blatche serving as naturalized player, Gilas gave world-class teams like Argentina, Greece, Croatia, and Puerto Rico good fights before eking out an 81-79 win over Senegal at the end of the preliminaries, prompting the fans to rally behind the national team program.
Chan said the biggest factor to their success was the chemistry they developed inside and outside the playing court during their long and grueling preparation.
“I think that’s the biggest help to the team: Our camaraderie, our partnership,” Chan said during the FIBA World Cup media conference in Mandaluyong yesterday.
“That alone helped our team to become successful. Going to the World Cup, we really brought that.”
“And I hope that with the new team that we have right now, I know we have a wide selection, hopefully they can develop the same as well.”
Before making their way to the prestigious cagefest in Seville, Spain eight years ago, the legendary 2014 batch had to endure a rigorous buildup that definitely got them closer together.
The squad logged a lot of mileages as it campaigned in quite a handful of tourneys and camps in China, United States and Europe.
The crew of Blatche, Marc Pingris, Jimmy Alapag, Gabe Norwood, Paul Lee, Ranidel de Ocampo, June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar even figured in friendly matches in Spain and joined a pocket tournament in France.
Now that they are playing at home, Tenorio is hopeful that Gilas could pull off a surprise and capture the hearts and minds of their fans, similar to what they did in 2013.
“Before when we were playing back in 2014, I’m sure everyone was cheering for us and these guys, who are playing with our team, are cheering for us,” Tenorio said.
“Now, it’s our time to give back for us to share our experience.”