Gilas Pilipinas vs Francis Arnaiz’s 1973 national team? ‘Mr. Clutch’ picks

Dennis Gasgonia, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 09 2018 11:59 PM | Updated as of Jan 10 2018 03:13 AM

Every pro needs to have ‘never-say-die’ mentality

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One of the PBA’s best players, Francis “Mr. Clutch” Arnaiz was put on the spot on ANC’s “Hardball” Monday when asked to compare today’s Gilas Pilipinas to the 1973 national basketball team that won the Asian championship, which he was a part of.

“Man for man, then and now, the skills we had then and the skills they have now? I’ll be honest, I think they would have beat us. C’mon,” Arnaiz said.

But the former Toyota and Gilbey’s Gin star guard who was best remembered for his back-court partnership with Robert Jaworski has a quick follow-up. 

“But I tell you, whoever they are now and whoever we were, if we have the same access to the training they had, if we're all born in the same generation and play together, we probably would have beat them,” Arnaiz said.

He, Jaworski and the likes of William “Bogs” Adornado, Rosalio “Yoyong” Martirez and Rogelio "Tembong" Melencio made up the national team that won the 1973 Asian Confederation Championship (now rebranded as the FIBA-Asia Cup).

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Basketball was a lot different during his time, Arnaiz recalled.

“Night and day. It's a much more physical these days, the players are much bigger now, the court has shrunk so mas maraming banggaan ngayon. Ability-wise it's totally a different game . . . basketball now has evolved as such that it's become an all-around skills game,” he said.

Arnaiz and Jaworski were part of the Toyota squad that entered the PBA, Asia's first professional basketball league, in 1975. He later joined Jaworski at Gilbey’s Gin, the forerunner of Barangay Ginebra and the franchise associated with what is now known as #NSD.

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“Personally and for Sonny, we always play the never-say-die game. Everybody should play like that because you're a professional. You owe that to the fans, to everybody, to whoever team you belong to. It wasn't strange for me to play that way,” he said.

He said he didn’t expect the Gin Kings to become so popular as it is today.

“If you're asking if (the popularity) would evolve to what it is right now, I didn’t expect that. But that's where it started,” said Arnaiz.

After collecting 10 PBA championships, he quietly retired from basketball in 1986. He moved to the US and worked for the government of California. 

Francis “Mr. Clutch” Arnaiz. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

When asked if it was hard for him to leave the game, he said: “I'm different. Maybe doors opened and I just stepped into it.”

“I never bought into the name, fame. That whole thing was foreign to me. That made it so easy for me to move to the next chapter of my life. I just moved on.”

(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)