LAS VEGAS, Nevada—Members of the Smart Gilas Pilipinas national team proved that basketball is more than just height and brawn when they got the better of the American Basketball Association’s Las Vegas Aces.
The RP team, hoping to compete in the 2012 Olympics, overwhelmed the Las Vegas Aces with their skills and speed, 109-98.
“The players are stronger, faster, taller. Their muscles are really big,” said RP team member Dylan Ababou.
Meanwhile, Smart Gilas team head and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Noli Eala told ABS-CBN News that they hope to form a team worthy of an Olympic spot.
It has been 37 years since a Philippine basketball team competed in the Olympics at the 1972 Munich Games in Germany.
In order to strengthen the national team, the RP Smart Gilas even held practice games and tryouts in Las Vegas.
Some half-Filipino-Americans from different parts of the US and Canada joined the tryouts with hopes of making it to the RP team.
“We see that basketball can actually be a unifying factor for most Filipinos. We see a lot of Fil-Ams coming over supporting our kababayans, as well as Fil-Ams trying out for team. And this is a really good sign,” Eala said.
Butch Antonio, Smart Gilas operations head, noted, “What we lack in height we tried to make it up for (with) speed. And if we are a pretty quick team and if we can have the height, have the big boys and the fast boys, we can probably come up with one really good team.”
Chris Lutz, a Fil-Am from New Hampshire, said, “I haven’t played in any international basketball before and I learned a lot from the coach and it’s a great opportunity for me.”
Eala added, “Even though we live apart… there’s a reason for us to be together. And that is basketball, and playing for the country. And I think that gives a lot of pride in the federation back home.”—with a report from Bev Llorente, ABS-CBN News North America Bureau