MANILA, Philippines – Former national team head coach Rajko Toroman is optimistic that Gilas Pilipinas will do well in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, the first time the Philippines will be competing at the world stage in decades.
Gilas Pilipinas qualified to the FIBA World Cup after finishing in second place at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships, which was held in Manila last August.
In an interview with Joaquin Henson of The Philippine Star, Toroman said it will be a difficult task, but he believes Gilas can be competitive against the best in the world.
“Coach Chot (Reyes) has a tough job ahead, because I think the team will only be able to train for two weeks before the tournament. Two to three months of training for an international competition is usual,” said Toroman.
“But even with the limited training time, I think Gilas will be competitive in Spain,” he added.
Toroman pointed to the continued improvement of big man JunMar Fajardo as one of the potential keys for Gilas in 2014, and expressed hope that Reyes will consider bringing in perimeter players like Marcio Lassiter, JV Casio and Terrence Romeo.
The Serbian coach said putting young players like Lassiter, Casio and Romeo in the squad will go a long way in giving them the experience needed for when they compete in the FIBA Asia Championships in 2015, which will serve as a qualifier to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“The future looks bright for Philippine basketball, particularly as JunMar, Japeth (Aguilar) and Greg (Slaughter) have the size to match-up against big players from other countries,” Toroman said.
“I heard Gilas is now looking at prospects for naturalization, and there are 7-foot Croatians on the list. This will be for when Marcus retires from Gilas or after the World Cup and the Asian Games,” he added.
Toroman left the country last Saturday after having spent five years coaching in the Philippines. He had stints not just with Gilas but in the PBA as well, and was a consultant for Barako Bull in the previous PBA season.
“I will always cherish my experience with Gilas and the PBA. Perhaps in one, two or three years, I could come back if a team wants me,” he said. “I’ve made many good Filipino friends. I think we achieved a lot during my term, and I only wish we could’ve done more.”