MVP: The Olympic dream shouldn’t die on us
Published on February 28, 2024

Caption: SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan (middle) flanked by executive director of the 2023 FIBA World Cup David Crocker (left) and SBP vice president and PBA chairman Ricky Vargas (SBP image)

The big guns of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan and president Al S. Panlilio, came away impressed by the way Gilas Pilipinas dealt with Chinese Taipei in Window 1 of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers at the rocking Philsports Arena in Pasig City last Sunday.

So impressed that one of them, the man known universally in big business as MVP, couldn’t help but inject some jest in the wake of the 53-point blowout win by Gilas.

“Impressive but boring,” Pangilinan said with a chuckle after the final buzzer sounded off on the 106-53 triumph that allowed the Philippines to sweep Group B and keep in line with New Zealand on 2-0 slates ahead of their showdown in Window 2 of the Qualifiers in November.

Would he rather have seen a close game? 

“Hindi naman,” MVP said, still laughing. “I prefer this game but we all know there are tougher teams ahead for us. There’s New Zealand this November. That’s the reverse, di ba? We’re going to Taipei and Hong Kong is coming pero…kaya yon e. I think, the Olympic Qualifying in Latvia, yon ang [dapat paghandaan]. July na yon. March, April, May, June…in four months, nandon na sila.”

For sure the Olympic dream is still alive for all Filipinos, he was told.

“Always, always. I hope they make it to the Olympics. That dream shouldn’t die on us,” he said. “My God, the players love to play for the country. And the fans missed them, absolutely. We should have more games here.”

Panlilio, for his part, pointed to Gilas’ team defense against Chinese Taipei and ball movement as the qualities that registered well with him.

“If there’s anything I really like, first of all, was on the defensive end,” the SBP chief said. “Tough defense. Even though malaki na yung lamang, I guess that’s the discipline of Tim Cone, they still continued to play hard on defense, practicing themselves for competitions in the future.”

He then switched over to what caught his eye regarding Gilas’ offense

“In Hong Kong, they had 33 assists, maraming pasahan talaga, the ball is going around before the first shot is taken,” Panlilio said, checking his cell phone for Gilas’ stats against Chinese Taipei.

“Tonight, they had 30 assists in the game. That’s a lot. Taipei only had 11, Hong Kong, I think, only had 12. It shows a different kind of offense that’s being played, although to me the most impressive still is the defensive side, from the first minute to the last. As I heard Tim tell the players in Hong Kong, ‘We will win games if we play defense. Our offense should just flow out from our defense.’ I think that shows character.”

The convincing wins over Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei, notwithstanding, Panlilio believes Gilas still has room to strengthen further its arsenal.

“I think we should continue to get better,” he said. “We shall be facing tougher teams in the future, especially in July when we go to the OQT. This is just very early stage in the journey. Two games and how many more in the future? This is just the start, and we can expect to get even better in the future.”

Gilas takes on world No. 8 Latvia and No. 23 Georgia in the qualifying tournament for the Paris Olympics later in July this year.