MANILA, Philippines—Clyde Drexler had only heard about the Philippines from Michael Young, his teammate and roommate at University of Houston who had stints with defunct PBA clubs Manila Beer and Great Taste here.
“He said a lot of great things about Manila,” said Drexler, who with Young and Hakeem Olajuwon formed the core of Phi Slama Jama, a moniker given to the UH Cougars because of their above-the-rim prowess.
“But I never had the chance to visit until now,” said the former Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets superstar, who flew into the country on the wings of a typhoon. “I got a welcome from mother nature herself.”
Still, Drexler had heard enough to share his thoughts on two local sports entities very much in the headlines: The Smart Gilas Pilipinas basketball team and ring icon Manny Pacquiao.
“I’d say you’re right there and you just have to keep on working and keep developing young guys,” Drexler said about Smart Gilas, which failed to qualify for the Olympics after finishing fourth in the recent Fiba Asia tourney.
Drexler said the Olympic experience is something a basketball player will always cherish. And he knows exactly what he speaks of, having been part of the legendary Dream Team that featured the first batch of NBA pros to represent Team USA in a tournament.
“It was phenomenal to be part of [the Dream Team],” said Drexler, who is here for the Manila leg of the NBA Madness. “It was the first time they allowed pros [in international tournaments] and to be part of such a legendary team, I really appreciate it.”
Drexler was part of a team that included Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
“The Glide,” as he was popularly known, was all praises for Pacquiao.
“I’ve been following his career,” he said. “He’s a phenomenal success story and he’s well-loved in our country and that’s a testament to his work ethic.”
However, Drexler did not take sides in a hypothetical bout between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“That’s going to be a great fight if they can get it together,” he said. “It’ll be hard to predict who’s going to win.”