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RAJKO RIDES AGAIN: Former Gilas mentor returning to local shores


‘I believe his influence will extend beyond just the college game.’

Former Gilas Pilipinas head coach Rajko Toroman is bringing his expertise back on Philippine soil. | Photograph Courtesy Of SBP.

Rajko Toroman’s fingerprints would again be all over Philippine basketball soon.

This surfaced yesterday when College of Saint Benilde head coach Charles Tiu told Daily Tribune that the Serbian strategist will act as a consultant for both the school and Converge FiberXers in the Philippine Basketball Association.

Toroman, who formerly called the shots for Gilas Pilipinas and the Iranian and Indonesian squads, will be in the country for two months, according to Tiu, citing confirmation from the teams’ backers Frank and Jacob Lao.

Toroman and Tiu are no strangers to each other as they once acted as head coach and assistant during their stints with Gilas.

“When I brought it up to Boss Frank and Jacob, they were on board right away, it was almost a no-brainer for them. It was more on the scheduling of coach Raijko but he will be here for two months only,” Tiu said.

“Rajko will bring a lot of discipline, will help us in our execution and will help us tactically. I look forward to learning more from him.”

Toroman will be joining Paolo Layug, Carlo Tan, Gabby Severino, Marvin Bienvenida, and JC Cullar on Tiu’s staff.

Tiu said having Toroman’s presence will definitely give Saint Benilde a big boost as the Blazers prepare for their campaign in Season 99 National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament.

“I believe his influence will extend beyond just the college game; he will be able to assist many teams. As you’re aware, Boss Frank Lao supports numerous basketball teams, and I believe we can all benefit from Coach Rajko’s expertise,” Tiu said.

“There is still so much for us to learn and improve on, and having a coach of his caliber come here to train us is truly beneficial.”

The 68-year-old Toroman is a proven winner as he was not only the first coach of the Gilas program but was also an assistant coach to Tiu for Mighty Sports in the 2019 William Jones Cup where the Philippines reigned supreme.

He was also on the sidelines for Indonesia in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam when the Indonesians won its first-ever SEA Games gold medal at the expense of a star-studded Philippine Basketball Association-backed squad, 85-81 to finish the six-game round-robin tournament unbeaten.

The Serbian mentor will also be in the country to conduct basketball clinics apart from his duties with the Blazers and the FiberXers.

Apart from its coaching staff, Saint Benilde is also loading up on its recruitment not only for Season 99.

Former San Beda University cagers Tony Ynot, Justine Sanchez, and Gab Cometa banner the recruitment of the Blazers with big man Allen Liwag joining from Emilio Aguinaldo College.

Red Cubs product Nathan Victoria, former Centro Escolar University floor general Jhomel Ancheta, Immaculada Concepcion College standouts Roger Ondoa and Ian Torres, San Joaquin Delta College’s Matthew Oli, Gavilan College’s Tahjae Ordonio, Irele Galas from Iloilo, and Jeric Canete from Cagayan de Oro are also expected to play for the Taft-based squad as well.

Tiu admitted the abundance of talent within the Blazers gives them a lot of options to choose from in forming a championship-caliber team.

The likes of NCAA Season 98 Most Valuable Player Will Gozum, team captain Robi Nayve, Prince Carlos, Miggy Corteza and Migs Oczon are expected to banner the team in the hopes of ending a 23-year title drought.

“It’s a challenge we’ve never encountered before, where there is now an abundance of players vying for the same position. It’s a favorable challenge, better than lacking options. They will need to compete for their spots, as we also have a surplus of players,” Tiu said.

“Our primary focus remains on the upcoming season that is about to commence in a month or so. We still have a substantial amount of work to accomplish, and our consistency remains an issue.”

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