Source : FIBA Asia
MANILA, Philippines (27th FIBA Asia Championship): There are few positions in international sport which are as unenviable as that of the coach of the Philippine National Team. In a country here passion for basketball rides high on emotion, nothing short of victory in every game the team plays satisfies the Filipinos.
The team, preparing for the 27th FIBA Asia Championship to be played in Manila from Aug 1-11, is back at home having had a successful learning trip to Lithuania with an impressive 5-2 record, but coach Chot Reyes shrugged off the results.
Reyes, a multiple title winner in the PBA, even went on to say: “Honestly I would have preferred us to lose more games. The teams we played were in off season form and did not have their American imports with them.”
But that didn’t mean there were no gains from the tour to Lithuania which tipped off what Reyes called “the 61-day countdown”.
“The most important gain was that it was the first time we assembled as a complete team. We were having only once a week practice before this period due to the PBA, and Lithuania marked the start of our training as one team,” the 50-year-old who will return to the hot seat in a FIBA Asia Championship after six years.
Under Reyes, the Philippines – then just back from a FIBA suspension – finished 9th at the 24th FIBA Asia Championship at Tokushima in 2007. Four years later, Reyes was an assistant to the venerable Rajko Toroman at the 26th FIBA Asia Championship at Wuhan (China) in 2011, where Philippines ended a 24-year semifinal drought and finished fourth losing to Korea in the bronze medal play-off by a whisker.
Most recently, Reyes was the coach of the team which finished fourth at the 4th FIBA Asia Cup at Tokyo (Japan) last September.
Reyes was candid and analytical in looking at the issues that face the team.
“Unfamiliarity with each other, and with the FIBA rules on traveling and foul interpretations is a major challenge we are fighting to overcome,” he said.
“While we have veteran players, we are very young as a team. A preparation of only two months may not be match against the years together of our opponents,” he went on.
“And as always with Philippine teams, lack of size is a challenge.”
Reyes has chosen to playing his cards very close to his chest and was reluctant to share the game details during the tour to Lithuanian.
“There was nothing much to share,” he explained.
“And we want to keep our team preparations to be as close to our team circle as possible. We are wary of all teams in August,” he added.
Philippines as host of the 27th FIBA Asia Championship had the option to choose the group they will play in the Prelim Round after each of the four groups had been filled with three teams each. Reyes, who was away in Lithuania during the Draw Ceremony at Manila on June 6 relayed his choice to his assistant Norman Black opting to play in Group A. That surely was much against the popular perception that Philippines would choose Group D.
“We have our reasons (for choosing Group A). I would rather not answer this question, except to say that we carefully considered all options,” Reyes said defending his choice.