A patriotic team

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Peter Cariño

Conrad M. Cariño

The reel of Paul George of the Indiana Pacers breaking (literally) his right leg during a USA Basketball exhibition game on August 1 is one ugly scene I will never want to watch again, ever. What happened to George should remind all those aspiring to be professional cagers that a moment of bad luck could mean a temporary setback or permanent end to a budding cage career. And George had a lot of potential, and I pray he fully recovers in one to two years.

If there are certain persons who surely do not want to watch the reel of George breaking his right leg, it should be the members of Gilas Pilipinas men’s national basketball team that will be representing the Philippines in the FIBA Basketball World Cup that starts on August 30.

At this point, all the members of Gilas Pilipinas deserve high accolades for representing the country in the world basketball meet, where they will be facing teams that will be fielding bigger players. While Gilas Pilipinas has shown a lot of spunk in their losing efforts in exhibition games against teams from France and Australia recently, it could be a lot more different when “the real thing” unfolds. Exhibition games are, well, exhibition games, and can never be a substitute for the real thing.

And when the heat turns up during the championship round of international sports competition, there’s no telling how willing the members of the opposing teams are to risk a limb or two. Hell, they may even be willing to spill their guts! And the specter of George injuring his right leg is truly scary. Heaven forbid!

Looking at the roster of Gilas Pilipinas, it is very clear that much of its members have brilliant or budding careers in the Philippine Basketball Association, where the salaries of even the lowest paid player could be the envy of junior managers in multinational or listed firms.

Players like June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar can be the main attraction of the professional league in a few years, or similar to how Alvin Patrimonio and Benjie Paras plowed in fans up to the rafters when they played against separate teams or against each other during the early 1990s. Meanwhile, Gabe Norwood and Marc Pingris can be vital cogs for any team aspiring for a championship.

Other players like Jeffrei Chan and Jayson Castro are promising scorers that any team in the PBA will surely want to have in its lineup. While I did not mention the other team members of Gilas Pilipinas, it is very clear that the rest of them have something to boast of in the basketball court.

So what am I saying? Simple – the players of Gilas Pilipinas are all putting their PBA careers on the line by simply representing our country in the World FIBA meet. These guys are even more courageous than the National Basketball Association players who opted not to represent their great USA in the world cage meet, because of certain “risks.” I will no longer identify them.

As for Coach Chot Reyes, he should be highly admired because the mere thought of going into the battle zone against teams that have bigger players is scary. Truly scary, in fact. But then, the Gilas Pilipinas squad made up mostly of Filipinos, and we Filipinos choose to fight till the end even when the odds are against us.

As for Andray Blatche, the “import” in the squad, we know very well that you are willing to go down fighting like his fellow Pinoys in the squad. God bless you!

I hate to predict what place or finish Gilas Pilipinas will possibly make in the FIBA tournament. What I care about is at this point how they will “scare” much of the opposition, even if they eventually lose more games. Naturally, I want them to do more than that.

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