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.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Thoughts about the 23 for 23

Thoughts about the 23 for 23
by rick olivares

The list of 23 for 23 has generated a lot of buzz. Can they compete? Can they develop in time for the World Cup? Why aren’t some names on the list?

I think people are missing the point of Chot Reyes… this isn’t by no means a final list. Names can be added and dropped. But you know, this is like that discussion on who should make the All-Star team – names are omitted, players are snubbed, the works. It’s good because people care and they look forward to a competitive team come 2023.

I think it is good this early to come out with that list because it gives time for all parties to prepare. That’s five years for the pool to soak up as much experience – domestic and international; to toughen up, and get bigger and stronger. It also gives many of them a heaping dose of confidence as they go into the next season. Can you imagine what this does for players like Matt Nieto who is coming off a breakthrough season for Ateneo? Can you imagine what this does for Paul Desiderio who has become one of the more unstoppable scorers in the college ranks and his pursuit to lead UP back to the Promised Land? Can you imagine how this helps CJ Perez leap higher than ever in his desire for redemption for Lyceum? The same goes for everyone on that list.

As it is, some names aren’t there because certain folks don’t want to release or include them. Like I said to some folks in the know – it’s their loss.

People wonder, aren’t those names too young to compete in that arena? Sure they are. But that’s just the pool. There will still be the PBA folks including this year’s rookie class who will be five years into their PBA career by then. The final composition will be a mix of who works well within the system and who has been performing great (and who isn’t injured).

I can understand the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ desire to get younger; to go back to the Smart Gilas-type of team where the cadets toughen up through the years while aided and abetted by PBA players.

During that early team of nationals, they were competitive to a point. Ultimately, they didn’t achieve their goals because of a variety of factors. What we can infer is – they were too young and oft – forgive the term here – bullied by the taller and veteran players of other countries. Hence, you need veterans from the pro league.

Nevertheless, you still have to start with the age groups growing up and balling together.

Just to refresh people’s memories, during the last NBTC Coaches Convention where Reyes gave a talk to over a thousand coaches from all over the country, the SBP and the national team are shifting their focus on forming age-group teams. He cited the national teams of Argentina and Spain – to name a few – who grew up together playing on the national side since they were young. Even as their respective careers blossomed by playing in different leagues and countries, when they got together, it was a little easier to work on chemistry as they have known each other for so long.

We should also look at how international football works as teams move up in age groups. They have done that so well for decades. It works across borders and sports so why can’t it work with the Philippines?

Last Saturday evening, by happenstance, I watched, with great interest I might say, a video where English football players Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard talked and discussed why their “Golden Generation” failed on the international stage.

They all pointed out to a variety of factors – the club competition saw divides among the players, the lack of willingness by the coaches to break that divide, the tactics of coaches etc.

There are lessons to be learned. All three English footballers spoke of how during meals the Manchester United players would sit together, the Liverpool players would sit in another and so on. Ferdinand played for Manchester United, Lampard for Chelsea, and Gerrard for Liverpool. Even as managers decided that there would be one table, the players would still sit in bunches. Sure it is hard to undo rivalries but again, if you keep the players together for a lot of international tournaments then you break down the walls.

Of course, it has been done. Moving once laterally back to basketball, the original American Dream Team played great basketball together because of the willingness of the team leaders to play such. As is oft said of Ervin “Magic” Johnson, he, along with Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, bent the team to their collective will. Leadership is key too.

While it’s definitely an exciting time for Philippine basketball, it is also interesting to see how the national team will work in the post-PBA/Standhardinger incident. Even with the 23 for 23 list, there are already collegiate players not included because of this and because of that.

Even before chemistry can be worked on, unity is something we should look into.

Like I said, interesting times are ahead.

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