Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gilas Pilipinas and the 27th FIBA Asia: A national dream. A national team.

This appears in

A national dream. A national team.
by rick olivares

Text message. February 5, 2013 7:48pm
Coach, is it true that 7 of us are on the team? I need to know so I can sleep tonight.

Text message reply. February 5, 2013 one minute later
Sorry. I can only release names this Thursday 

Text message reply. February 5, 2013
So I ain’t going to sleep.

Two men: Jared Ryan Dillinger of South Dakota, born of a Filipina mother and an American father, and Vincent “Chot” Reyes of Manila. That was their exchange of text messages two days before Reyes released the pool from which the national team that will compete in the 27th FIBA Asia this coming August.

For Dillinger, or “JD” for short, playing for the Philippine national team is an honor. To represent the country of his mother’s birth is, was, and will always be an honor.

For Reyes, to play for the national team was a dream. He thought that he had an opportunity to play for the RP Youth team in the mid-1980s as a standout with the Ateneo Blue Eagles but he wasn’t given the chance. He eventually got the opportunity much later as while working as a head coach in the PBA.

When he exited Tokushima, site of the 2007 FIBA Asia games, Reyes had mixed feelings. The Philippine team was good. Unfortunately, it was in the group of death and the team sorely lacked international experience. And that team finished ninth in the tournament. “Experience – the lack of it. That was my biggest learning not just for myself but for every one else,” he recounted of that time.

Now, Reyes has one more crack at it. One more before he officially calls it a day in what has been a 30-year coaching career beginning back in Ateneo High School when he was coaching the likes of Olsen Racela and Danny Francisco. To this day, just being a part of the national team resonates strongly within him. “Serving on a national team is the second best thing a person could ever do outside serving in the military,” underscored the multi-titled head coach. “Now we as a country have a great opportunity to achieve something that has not been done in a long time – reclaim lost glory.”

Unfortunately once more, there isn’t enough time to prepare. Prior to Tokushima, he had four and a half months to prepare for that FIBA competition. This time around he has two months. Does Reyes believe in miracles?

“Yes, I do believe in miracles.”

For one, for the first time in 40 years, the FIBA tournament will be held in Manila. The last time the biennial tournament was held in the Philippines, the country won the championship with a lineup that included William Adornado, Francis Arnaiz, Ricky Cleofas, Ramon Fernandez, Abet Guidaben, Robert Jaworksi, Jimmy Mariano, Yoyong Martirez, Tembong Melencio, Manny Paner, Dave Regullano, and Big Boy Reynoso and was coached by Tito Eduque. Reyes is certain the every Filipino will get up for that tournament. “The hometown support will be enormous not to mention advantageous,” said Reyes. “That will help will be a shot of adrenaline to the team. We see that when we play abroad but here at home, the support will be incredible. And I predict that to be an understatement.”

The basketball landscape has greatly changed since 1973 with the rise of the Middle Eastern teams and naturalization a key component of squads.

Even the Philippines has not been spared of those changes. Marcus Douthit, a naturalized American is the team’s man in the middle. The team like those before it in the past decade and a half is bannered by Fil-Americans. Some have called out the national team for having too much of a foreign flavor something Reyes angrily disputes. “There are only four Fil-Americans on the current national pool – Gabe Norwood, Jared Dillinger, Sonny Thoss, and Kelly Williams. Jimmy Alapag and Ryan Reyes are full-blooded Filipinos who grew up in the United States. But I will tell you this, every Fil-Am I spoke to wants to play for the team. No one has declined the invitation. In contrast, some homegrown Filipinos either flat out turned down the invitation or said they will think about it. That’s puzzling isn’t it? You have Sol Mercado wanting to be a part of the team; who is willing to do anything even to be a practice player or whatever. I think all this talk about who is a Filipino is ridiculous. We have far too many more crabs than patriots.”

Another reason why Reyes believes the Philippines has a good chance of winning the tournament or even snaring one of the three slots available to represent Asia in the 2014 FIBA World Cup (previously known as the FIBA Basketball Championships) is that most of the players on the pool have international experience. “The problem of the team I handled before is that we didn’t have any international basketball experience,” related Reyes. “That was an eye opener for us. Now this whole team save for Marc Pingris and Junmar Fajardo are the only ones lacking in international basketball experience. But by the time FIBA tips off, they will have experienced some international ball.”

The problem about putting together a national team, even one as simple as an all-star team, is that there will be big names left out. “There was a lot of thought that was put into the naming the players for this pool (of the 17 players, only 12 will make the team as per FIBA rules),” said Reyes. “This is really the best that we have given the circumstances. Every one on this team knows that there are no guarantees for them to be a part of the lineup. But they all answered the call willingly.”

And this is how Reyes looks at all the names in the 17-man pool.

The guards:
LA Tenorio (Barangay Ginebra)He was the MVP of the Jones Cup. From day one, he had in his contract that he couldn’t be prohibited to play from the national team. His leadership and cool and ability to create plays is crucial.

Jimmy Alapag (Talk ‘n Text)To tell you the truth, I didn’t think that Jim would be in this line-up. But you all saw what he could do such as in the last PBA conference. He’s got range and leadership; important ingredients in any line-up.

Jason Castro (Talk ‘n Text)Despite his size, he is an unstoppable force. He is our best asset in the dribble drive offense.

The off guards:

Ryan Reyes (Talk ‘n Text) – Through the years, we’d get killed by the shooting guards of the other teams. Ryan is a tough defender and a utility player. He can also double as a point guard so his multi-talents are an advantage for the team.

Larry Fonacier (Talk ‘n Text)He is a steady team player. His smarts about the game will be a huge asset. He can drive, play defense, and he can shoot.

Gary David (GlobalPort)Every team needs a closer. In Gary, we have one. He proved in Taipei that he can have a bad game but when it’s crunch time, he delivers.

The small forwards:
Gabe Norwood (Rain or Shine) – People say he is soft? He played the four-spot in the Jones Cup and is our leader in three-point percentage. He is a great defender who guarded the likes of Lebanon’s Fahdi El Khatib and Iran’s Nikkah Bahrami,

Jeff Chan (Rain or Shine)Jeff is our best three-point shooter. He does a lot outside scoring and not many notice that.

Jared Dillinger (Talk ‘n Text)Like Jason, he is perfect for our dribble drive offense. Like Gabe, he is a good defender. It’s a plus that he can bring down the ball.

The power forwards:
Ranidel de Ocampo (Talk ‘n Text)He is the perfect four-spot player because he can shoot from the outside, post up, and pass.

Marc Pingris (San Mig Coffee)He is a relentless rebounder who comes with extra batteries of energy. We need toughness and we have it in Ping.

Japeth Aguilar (GlobalPort)What he is showing in his last two games with GlobalPort is proof of what he can do? He’s got so much international experience that will help the team.

The centers:
Junmar Fajardo (Petron)I believe that along with Greg Slaughter, Junmar will be the next faces of Philippine basketball. He has the height and the skills for the position.

Sonny Thoss (Alaska)He is in my mind, the best center in the PBA. He does things quietly and without any fuss. He has a post up game and a medium range shot. Crucial in our plans.

Kelly Williams (Talk ‘n Text)An athletic big man who does things without complaint. He is not on to look out for stats but the team’s overall success. We should have more like him.

Marcus Douthit (Smart Gilas)Marcus has manned the slot for the national team for many years now. He is so consistent and the consummate team player. A great locker room presence for us.

Greg Slaughter (NLex)His years in Smart Gilas and Ateneo have greatly improved his game. Plus, he’s got international experience.

Added the five-time PBA Coach of the Year: “Believe me when I say I wish I had more but we had to make hard decisions. I will stand by what I have. But this is a team that can spread the floor, that can run, shoot, and be flexible. Is it the best that we have? It is the best with what we have available. But we will also have a very competent coaching staff to prepare the team.”

The coaching staff is not lacking in experience or in pedigree. Making up the coaching staff are Jong Uichico, Norman Black, Ryan Gregorio, Nash Racela, and Josh Reyes. All have won championships in one form or another. And all have international experience as well.

Said Josh Reyes, Chot’s eldest son who has long served as an assistant for his team and is now with Racela in FEU, “The chemistry among the coaching staff is just as crucial. Will there be any egos? Not at all. Every one of the coaches has served as an assistant aside form being the head coach. They know what each position brings. Every one is just excited.”

For now practices are once a week, every Monday. But quite a few of the players have asked for another practice day. The sacrifices that all have to make are heavy. When each player signed on for the team, there were three things that they had to understand very clearly: one, they will have no off-season; two, they will have to give up some time with their family; and three, they will have to make themselves available for practices with the national team aside from their regular team practices.

Said Fonacier about the whole business of being on the national team, “It’s challenging. It’s hard but it’s an honor. It’s exciting… I feel giddy. This doesn’t come up very often and to play in a tournament in your own country… I get goose bumps thinking about it every time.”

Jared Dillinger won’t be getting much sleep even if FIBA is just 168 days away.


  1. Perhaps another unspoken reason to be optimistic about the Team's chances now is the fact that the core of Talk and Text - 7 players - is part of Gilas 2.

    In the same way that Spain benefited from having a significant number of Barcelona players as part of their team that eventually won the World Cup, Gilas hopes to solve the chemistry problem that usually plagues star-studded National Teams formed only shortly before international competitions. Coach Chot perhaps hopes to build around the proven cohesiveness of his former players in Talk and Text. I think it's a good move, and I hope it succeeds.

  2. Tsk Tsk
    Sa mga critic ng fil-am players....nabasa nyo....some pure filipino ballers even rejected the idea or had double thoughts about joining the national team...
    The marlou aquinos,dennis espinos and jame yaps supporters.....

    ngayon sabihin nyo...hindi nyo matatanggap ang panalo kung hindi purong pinoy ang maglalaro para sa bansa

  3. a very good article...good luck GIlas... Mabuhay Pilipinas

  4. nice article ^_^okay naman yung pagpili ni coach chot kasi yung 17 players really deserving dun sa spot nila sa gilas hindi man sila yun pinaka malaking pangalan sa pba atleast meron naman silang ibubuga at magagaling sila sa kanilang mga team..

  5. I believe it would be nice if the national team goes "incognito" in their training and tune-up matches. The scouts of our opponents should be almost clueless about what Chot Reyes is cooking. Look at China. They're always unseen everytime and look at how they dominate during the actual competition. Have you seen China play tune-up games against other Asian countries? It's always outside Asia. Even their Team B doesn't join the Jones Cup.

  6. yes! nice article talaga!! Sabi pa nga ni coach "J0las" Jojo Lastimosa., dati nung kapanahunan daw nila eh pinaghihirapan at nangangarap silang maging bahagi ng nat'l team! & makapag laro para sa bayan. Tapos ngayon daw players na ang tumatangggi!!Tsk tsk!!

  7. "...some homegrown Filipinos even flat out turned down the invitation...." wow, grabe... add to that some team owners not willing to lend players... nakakalungkot...

    1. I think that every one has to understand that all these players are like the main men of their clubs. Not every one understands that some will be role players within this team. And because of that some do not want to play. Others have reasons of their own and we really cannot take that away from them.

  8. Mabuhay ang LAHING MANDIRIGMA!

  9. Mga bobo . asa pa kayo . . putang ina ko . . mamatay na mga mahal ko sa buhay . . .

  10. Mga kabayan, huwag kalimutan ang laban ng ating Gilas sa Taiwan! Sumugod tayong lahat at TADTARIN ang mga TULO-LAWAY na BEHO! Tapos isunod natin ang kuya ng Taiwan...ang 'tangna CHINA...manlulupig sa ating Panatag Shoal!

  11. Wala eh...ayaw talagang lumaban sa akin ang DUWAG at BAKLITANG si Floyd GAYweather!

  12. In hindsight, the big losses were Jared Dillinger, Kelly Williams, Ryan Reyes, and Greg Slaughter. I think the former two being let go were circumstancial but the latter two was the Coach's decision. But the campaign isn't over yet. I still hope to see Fajardo or David contribute heavily to any win. It should have been Fajardo's time when Marcus got hit or against HK. Ofc I'm biased but I'm pretty sure Greg would have risen up to the occasion. Or if Ryan cannot score, he'd do well what he does best that is to defend. Which is something David must really ingrain in himself. If you can't score, then at least don't let your man score.