MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines could squander its most serious crack at a return trip to the world basketball championship if it doesn't field a solid lineup that could be competitive and at par with the best of Asia.
FIBA Asia secretary general Hagop Khajirian, an authority on Asian basketball for years, made this observation and urged the host cage federation to exhaust its resources and influence to assemble the best from the country’s best as it tries to claim one of the three FIBA World Cup berths against the powerhouses in the continent.
"Championship will come as a result of hard work not by luck. One can be lucky to make one shot, one layup, but not winning the championship," said Khajirian yesterday in a press conference held at the end of his inspection of playing venues and other facilities for the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship the country is hosting in August.
Based on the results of the previous Asian meets, Khajirian ranks the Philippines fifth behind China, Korea, Iran and Lebanon as the teams with the best chance to rule the 27th edition of the biennial championship.
"You'll notice I rank the Philippines at No. 5 because you're not sending your full squad, not your best players. I hope this will be different in August," said Khajirian.
"This doesn't happen every year. This is a rare event and I hope you make the best preparation. I hope you revise all your basketball schedules and you prepare for this championship the best of the best that you have. We saw the Philippines make the semis the last time, so why not all the way to the finals this time," Khajirian added.
Khajirian is well aware of the previous squabble in the local cage federation resulting to its suspension in FIBA competitions. He's also aware of the conflict of the schedule of the local pro league with the FIBA tourneys.
How national coach Chot Reyes is going to form the national team will be known after his meeting with PBA commissioner Chito Salud today.
The PBA board has mandated all its teams to make available at least one player each for the national team. The pro league, however, wants Reyes to name his Final 12 plus two reserves right away, doing away with the process of a long training for a big pool of players.
The national coach and the PBA commissioner will also discuss the team's schedule of practice and the proposed revision of the PBA Governors Cup to give way to the final stage of the Nationals' buildup for the Asian joust.
"We're the defending champion on our own backyard so we're defending our hosting championship so to speak. It's not coach Chot's call but the country's call. Hopefully, everybody stands up," said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios.
"You have a federation headed by a president full of passion for the game of basketball. I hope your players have the same passion as that of Mr. (Manny) Pangilinan. Make Philippines write its name in FIBA Asia history in bold letters," said Khajirian.
William "Bogs" Adornado, the top gun of the Philippine team that made a historic title run the last time the Asian championship was held in the country in 1973, also challenged the Filipino players to stand up and make the Filipinos proud.
"It's been a long time (since we last won the championship in 1985). Let's work together and let's regain our supremacy in Asia. I think we can do it," said Adornado, among the guests in the press conference also announcing the start of the organizational work of the hosting group.
"We're clearing things with Mr. Khajirian, the things we need to pay attention to and things we should prepare for. It's good he came over. We’re getting the spadework much in place," said Barrios.
"FIBA Asia has a high standard in organizational work and SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan is the same. We're determined to surpass expectation. We must show our organizational skill as a country and the so-called Filipino hospitality," Barrios added.
"This is our second meeting with the local organizing committee. We’re well satisfied with the work and the plan. We think it’s an excellent program," said Khajirian.
The Mall of Asia Arena is chosen as the main venue and the Ninoy Aquino Stadium as the second venue. During the preliminaries, six games will be played per day at the MOA Arena and two in the other playing venue.