Source : Solar Sports Desk
|Photo from Gilas Pilipinas Facebook page|
Serving as the president of the Ateneo Student Council during that time, Salud enumerated to the squad the different reasons why people were discouraging the student body to fight back against the existing force: "Dambuhala ang kalaban. Organisado. Eksperyensyado."
Salud used it as a metaphor to spike up the emotions of the nationals. He practically rubbed it into the egos of the Philippine national basketball pool - set to take on the region's organized, much experienced superpowers.
Veteran team leader Jimmy was listening intently. First-timer Ping's head was down. While meek-faced Larry had a different spunk on his face.
"Kung hindi ngayon, kelan? Kung hindi ikaw -- kung hindi kayo, sino?" Salud reintroduced to the team their battlecry back then. Jimmy's eyes lit. Ping's head moved up. While Larry was steady with his state.
SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios spoke next. His message for the squad centered on rallying behind coach Chot. He gave them a background of the early days of the young Reyes, who'd spend days reviewing game tapes. How the then Purefoods mentor would show videos to his players, his coaching staff, and even up to the team's top management.
It was a story shared by Barrios through the eyes of the team's former liaison officer, Robert de Guia. He shared that same story to Ricky Vargas before Chot was brought in to TNT.
And now, he's sharing it to the team Reyes himself assembled.
Commit to give yourself to the national team was Barrios' basic premise. You'll earn a coach who's dedication to the game you cannot question was the implied promise.
"It will not be easy," coach Chot said in his opening spiel. He was envisioning the road that the team is set to traverse. It will not be a walk in the park. Definitely not a picnic. Expect no welcome drinks.
Along with their practice jerseys, Reyes gave them a reading material containing a brief summary of the 1973 Philippine basketball team that won the Asian Basketball Championship in Manila.
"The road once taken," I said to myself. "It's been 40 long years gentlemen. 40 long years," stressed Reyes to everyone.
He invited them to browse the content of the violet folder. "On the second to the last page, you have the Philippine national anthem. Everyone's got to memorize this. Everyone's got to be able to sing this." There came Reyes' first ordinance to the national team.
"Let's go, let's work," was his next order, as he asked his men to position themselves and take their places.
"FIBA rules in mind. FIBA rules in mind," assistant coach Josh Reyes twice reminded the all-pro guard/forward group. "One shot fake, then drive," went Norman Black's instruction on one of the drills of the big men.
Jong Uichico, Ryan Gregorio and Nash Racela were also there to help out. Head tactician Reyes confirmed that more coaching minds will be coming in the next couple of weeks: "I promise you, we are going to assemble the best coaching staff this country has ever seen."
"The best team deserves nothing but the best," he reiterated.
Japeth stuffed the ball. Sonny showed range. Kelly missed TNT's first game yet he was there. Jayson, Greg and Jeff were nursing different injuries but all were present. Jared looked as if he had enough sleep. Gabe pumped up his teammates. RDO showed some pivot moves. LA shook MVP's hand. Ryan was sweating hard. An exhausted Kuya Marcus would later chow down the team dinner of chicken and pork adobo. While everyone went 'ooohh' when June Mar hit a three-pointer.
But before Gary David gave in to the team tradition of cracking a joke to signal the end of practice, Mr. Pangilinan addressed the team: "Our goal is simple. We want to bring you to Spain next year," said the SBP President, while referring to the 2014 World Championship.
The goal is in fact simple, but the journey towards achieving that goal will be long, rough and hard. Just like the blue jerseys labeled GILAS-Pilipinas, and the white jerseys which read LABAN-Pilipinas, everyone knew that beyond skill and spirit, they still need something much greater -- much bigger.
"PUSO," they all shouted in unison.
Day one of "Laban Para sa Bayan" came to a close.