After the recently concluded 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China, the Philippines improved its world ranking from 31st to 287th, surpassing South Korea and Jordan.
The country’s performance in the sport has consistently gone up since the formation of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), the national basketball federation, in 2006. Before this, even with basketball as the most loved sport by Filipinos, the Philippines found itself ranked lower than countries that hardly had basketball courts.
But the SBP moved mountains to regain respect for the country, forming stronger national teams that resulted in the steady rise of the Philippines in the world ranking. Finally in 2011, after a fourth place finish in the Asian Championship by a team mostly composed of collegiate standouts, the Philippines climbed to 45th place.
But the SBP made sure the country would continue to soar. Gilas 2.0 captured the silver in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, which not only improved the country’s ranking by 11 notches, from 45th to 34th, but also qualified the Philippines in the 2014 FIBA World Cup for the first time since 1978. Gilas made a respectable showing in the world championship, battling tooth and nail with top ranked nations like Croatia, Argentina, Greece and Puerto Rico, and even scoring a victory over African powerhouse Senegal. This brought up the Philippines to 31st place after the tournament. Of course, the silver in last month’s Asian Championship elevated the Philippines to its current world ranking, at 28th.
Amazingly, even the women’s national team, called Perlas Pilipinas, made a huge jump in the world ranking, from 58th to 49th, tying Egypt for the most improved country after the FIBA tournaments this year. Thanks again to the SBP.
At the helm of the federation since 2007 is none other than Manuel V. Pangilinan, better known as MVP, who is a highly respected sportsman and among the top business executives in the country. Under MVP’s eight-year term as SBP President, so much has been achieved, other than the improvement in the national team’s performance. Add to this the country’s hosting of FIBA tournaments such as the FIBA Asia Cup in 2011, the FIBA Asia Championship in 2013, and FIBA 3×3 World Tour this year. Pangilinan also personally met with top FIBA officials abroad regarding matters concerning Philippine basketball, more recently in the country’s bid to host the 2019 World Cup. He led the Philippine delegation in presenting its case, which almost convinced the FIBA Board to award the hosting to Manila. If not for some issues in infrastructure when compared to the other remaining bidder— China—the Philippines would have gotten the nod to host the world championship for the first time in over 30 years.
Also under MVP’s term, the SBP was able to naturalize two players —former Providence star Marcus Douthit and ex-NBA campaigner Andray Blatche—that contributed greatly to the success of Gilas in international jousts. Furthermore, SBP boosted the level of competition in the country by helping organize leagues like the Regional tourney Liga Pilipinas and the Philippine Collegiate Champions League. SBP also often brought to the country top FIBA officials to train local referees.
MVP owns and runs over twenty giant companies that include PLDT, Smart Communication, Meralco, TV5 and Maynilad, and bankrolls several national teams in other sports as well. But when it came to major concerns about Philippine basketball, he would find ways to personally attend to them even with a loaded calendar.
But not only does MVP manage the national federation. He also finances most of its projects, especially the formation and maintenance of the national teams.
Just last week, MVP announced his retirement as SBP President, citing the need for fresh and young leadership.
A new SBP boss will be elected in January 2016. Let’s all hope the new basketball leader will be up to the task, as MVP is a tough act to follow.