THE Philippines is back in the basketball competitions of the Asian Games and is raring to do battle no matter the odds.
"The team owners, upon the initiative of (San Miguel Corp. Sports Director) Alfrancis Chua, started to explore the options and open up discussions in suggesting some of the players who have been selected by the coaches to allow them to join the national team."
No less than POC president and PBA chairman Ricky Vargas announced the change of heart Sunday, arrived at by the major stakeholders in the sport following a massive uproar raised by the fans following an initial decision to pull out from the sport last July 26.
"This will be final," assured Vargas, who was accompanied by SBP president Al Panlilio, coach Yeng Guiao and assistant Caloy Garcia, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial and some members of the league board.
According to Vargas, there were compelling reasons why the country decided to re-think its position after initially withdrawing from the competitions July 26.
"We realized there is a strong clamor from our basketball fans, so we decided to take a look at it and we understand the clamor and where it is coming from," related Vargas.
The clincher, added Vargas, came when it was no less than Special Assistant to the President Bong Go personally made the appeal, which came after that of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alln Cayetano, who is also PH chief of mission to the Asiad.
"He (Go) is one of the biggest fans in the country and he asked that we reconsider our position," said Vargas, who also related that the Olympic Council of Asia welcomed the Philippines back with open arms.
According to Marcial, the talks within the league gained full momentum after his most recent discussion with Go Saturday evening. "Nagkasunod-sunod na pangyayari," he said.
Even Guiao seemed satisfied with the team he was dealt with and more so with the modest target expected from him by the POC.
"Just to better our finish in the last Asian Games in Korea," said Vargas.
Rain or Shine players Maverick Ahanmisi, Chris Tiu, Gabe Norwood, James Yap, Beau Belga and Raymond Almazan form the core of the team to be reinforced by GlobalPort's Stanley Pringle, Magnolia's Paul Lee, Blackwater's Poy Erram, TNT's Don Trollano, San Migurel Beer's Christian Standhardinger and NLEX's Asi Taulava.
Gilas Cadets Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero are also in the 14-man line-up, which will be pruned down to 12 before the team leaves for the Asiad set in Indonesia.
The Asiad cage competitions actually start earlier than the Aug. 18 opening, with the Philippines meeting groupmate United Arab Emirates on the 16th. Next is Iran and last Syria, with the top three from each group advancing to the next round.
With time not on his side, Guiao is fast-tracking his team's preparations.
"We will practice starting tomorrow and leave on the 14th,"related Guiao.
"Time is really short even before we first planned it. Dati maikli na, ngayon lalo pang umikli," added Guiao. "That is also one reason why iyung core na ng Rain or Shine. They are familiar with me and I''m familiar with them.
"We feel kaya naming i-gel within this week or so 'yung ibang players na galing sa labas and I don't see no problem working with Standhardinger, Erram, Pringle, Rivero and Yap."
Vargas said the mere fact the Philippines is sending a team is victory in itself.
"We are happy, but the country is even happier, simply because we are fielding a basketball team in the Asiad. That became more important than winning a medal," stated Vargas.
"Of course, we are sending a team not only to play, but to be competitive. We want them to do their best, show the effort, the heart the Filipino is known for."(NC)