Now outside looking in, Gilas Pilipinas originals Rajko Toroman, Marcus Douthit and Chris Tiu recalled the fun times they had playing against the big guns in the Philippine Basketball Association.
It wasn’t all that rosy, though.
In fact, Douthit, who was the naturalized enforcement back then, remembered it was painful.
“It was rough,” Douthit said. “Probably because some of the players were having reservations about accepting us.”
Douthit was with the Gilas from 2010 to 2015. In that period, the national team was patterned after the 1980s Northern Consolidated Cement team.
He said it was something that didn’t sit well with superstars of the league.
Gilas made it as far as the semifinal round in the import-laden conference back in 2010.
For his part, then-head coach Toroman remembered how the more experienced PBA players engage in highly physical games against them.
“It was tough for our players,” recalled Toroman. Before his stint with Gilas, the Serbian mentor steered Iran to the 2007 FIBA Asia crown and a ticket to the Olympics.
“I remember how Wynne Arboleda played too physically against some of the players, but that’s OK,” Toroman added. “I told the team, if you can survive these kinds of games in the PBA, you can survive the games in Europe.”
Arboleda’s highly physical tactics caught the ire of the fans. One of them, veteran guard Allein Katigbak, even fought with the fans causing him a lifetime ban from the league.
Under Toroman, the young generation of Gilas were able to experience tough level of competition, including the Stankovic Cup.
Chris Tiu, former team captain, recalled how the PBA experience made them tougher, not just physically, but mentally.
“I remember when we were competing in the Stankovic Cup, there were tanks and soldiers armed with M-16 and riffles, were passing by us,” Tiu said.
“If you’re not tough enough, it will affect you psychologically. These things were happening right in front of us as if something could happen anytime.”