IF HE could, former Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao would shorten PBA seasons in those years when the Asian Games and FIBA World Cup are set to allow the national team ample time to prepare for these major competitions.
“We’ve always been ill-prepared or we didn’t have the luxury of time together,” pointed out Guiao during the Hoops Coaches International webinar streamed on YouTube last Sunday evening,
“I think the PBA would have to make that sacrifice,” added Guiao. “The best solution there, since the PBA has the best players, is to hold just two conferences when preparing for an Asian Games or a World Cup.”
The NLEX mentor in the PBA said the next one who handles the national team does not need to be a full-time Gilas coach as long as he is able to get all the players together months ahead of competitions.
“It’s that simple,” said Guiao, who coached the Gilas Pilipinas team in the World Cup last year.
“Even if you have a full-time coach and the players are not full-time, it’s the same thing. It’s really about cooperation. Everyone has to commit to the objectives of the national team.”
Guiao said there were plenty of lessons to be taken from last year’s FIBA World Cup in China where his Gilas squad failed to win a single game.
“If you’re playing in the World Cup, the lesson we learned is we have to train early and play against teams that are at the level of the other teams in the tournament. This should happen months before the tournament,” stated Guiao.
“I know it’s time-consuming and it takes a lot of expense and commitment and you have to have the best players available. On our part, we did have our problems with injuries and scheduling. We only had two weeks of training together.”
Guiao backed former Gilas coach Chot Reyes’ statement that the national team should have a Filipino mentor. But Guiao stressed that local coaches should also do their job, upgrading their skills to be at par with the best in the world.
TNT KaTropa active consultant Mark Dickel from New Zealand handled the last national team that saw action in the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers in February.
“I think we can stand up with the best coaches in the world, but we still need to upgrade our skills. We still need to immerse ourselves before we play the best European teams,” said Guiao.
“I think the best basketball at the FIBA World [Cup] level is in Europe. If you look at the Euro League, it is the same style as FIBA. The Americans even have a hard time adjusting to that type of play.”
While he lauded the efforts of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to come up with a long-term plan following the inclusion of top draftees loaned to the Gilas pool, Guiao believes only a few of them could end up representing the country in the World Cup three years from now.
Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte and Allyn Bulanadi were all selected from the Gilas draft last year, but Guiao believes young big men Kai Sotto and AJ Edu should be shoo-ins to the 2023 squad when the country co-hosts the FIBA WC in 2023 along with Indonesia and Japan.
“The rookies that we have today will be lucky if one or two of them would make the World Cup team,” offered Guiao.
“You already have Kai Sotto and AJ Edu, but the rest nine or 10 of the guys are already in the PBA. The rookies this year or maybe next year may just be too young or too raw to be playing in the 2023 World Cup. They should be part of the long-term plan and they still have plenty of work to do.”
Guiao is also all for having more than just one naturalized player suiting up for the national team in the world stage so that the Gilas coach would have more than one option.
“You know, you don’t need to naturalize just one. Under the law, you can naturalize several,” said Guiao.
“Let’s say we can, then why not go for three, four, or five players?” added Guiao. “Hindi kailangan isa lang. Kasi ngayon parang isa lang choice natin.”
Under Philippine laws, a person would become a naturalized Filipino through an act of Congress or a presidential decree.
Guiao said it would all be worth it.
“I guess it is… giving us more options and, at the same time, having control of our naturalized player situation. Mag-naturalize na tayo ng marami,” explained Guiao.
“Hindi naman kailangan ng isa diyan. When I say three or four, sama na natin diyan si Justin Brownlee, si Ange Kouame, sama na natin si Chris McCullough… Kung sino man kailangan natin.”
Brownlee and fellow American McCullough, plus Ivorian Kouame, have all expressed their love of the country and desire to become naturalized Filipinos