16 August 2015

Playing for Your Country Should Be The Pinnacle of Patriotism

Gilas Castro
Whenever you mention the Gilas Pilipnas National team to your average supporter at the dawn of 2015 and chances are you will receive a tired look of resignation or even worse, apathy.

But for those who continued to serve their country despite all the odds and frustrations, the twinkle will forever remain in their eyes when talk turns to the current preparations, whatever the vicissitudes.

It has nothing to do with pure nostalgia as the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) prepares for the upcoming annual draft, but more lion-hearted pride in representing your country.

Yet, while the country's highest-paid athletes are all-singing, all- dancing because Asia's first professional basketball league continue to attract followers all over the world, for those who are busting their ball preparing for the Gilas Pilipinas program, it will never matter more than lining up ahead of the national anthem for the Philippines, however low the team’s stock falls.

The national team may have been snubbed by Mark Pingris of the Star Hotshots; Ginebra San Miguels L.A. Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter, and San Miguel Beermen's Junemar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz for various petty reasons, but the commitment of veterans Asi Taulava, Gary David and Ranidel Ocampo prevails.

The flimsy excuse given by players from the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) teams to skip this year's national thrust for pride and country may be a blessing in disguise because it allow the emergence of a young crop of talent about whom many Filipinos genuinely excited.

Top of the list being young Calvin Abueva, projected to bring energy and hustle to the team and Terrence Romeo, who can light up the scoreboards whenever he is in the zone. These two players are expected to have a long and successful careers if they rise to the challenge posed by the withdrawal of three big names.

There are others players on the rank of coach Tab Baldwin waiting for their chance, including rookie Troy Rosario, JC Intal and reserve Moala Tautuaa.

The national team will have less than two months to prepare for the FIBA Asia Championship in China in September, where the winner will automatically get a slot in the 2016 Olympics.

Given the PBA titles of the SMC teams, one school of thought suggests that international basketball has lost some of its allure for some increasingly well-monied young players, with many coming under scrutiny for any vestiges of unpatriotic behavior.

Tenorio's somewhat clumsy admission that his performance last year dipped and that he needed a temporary relief to be fair to Ginebra added fuel to the fire.

"I’ve been with the national team for almost four years and the fatigue factor is evident. It's evident that my output last season took a dip and that’s the fatigue factor. So I came out with this decision to be fair with both the national team and Ginebra," said the 5-9 guard to CNN Philippines.

With comments from Pingris like, "Mahal ko yung Gilas, kaso may mga bagay na ‘di natin control," only inflamed the situation and attracts frustrations from Filipino fans and loyal basketball followers.

That is probably more public today. When it happened during the time of Robert Jaworski, it was probably unspoken. Today because of social media these days and the publicity surrounding the game, these things come out into the public arena easily.

However, there is still no doubt that if anybody asked the former national team members, they will probably say that it is a great honor serving the country that cannot be replace by fame or monetary rewards.

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