Toroman touts Indonesia’s high basketball IQ, discipline in success

Rey Joble

Posted at May 25 2022 01:30 AM | Updated as of May 25 2022 04:42 AM

Philippines head coach Rajko Toroman watches the bronze-medal match between South Korea and the Philippines at the 26th Asian Basketball Championships in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on September 25, 2011. South Korea defeated the Philippines 70-68. Liu Jin, AFP/file
Philippines head coach Rajko Toroman watches the bronze-medal match between South Korea and the Philippines at the 26th Asian Basketball Championships in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on September 25, 2011. South Korea defeated the Philippines 70-68. Liu Jin, AFP/file

Similar to the Philippines, Indonesia also didn’t have the luxury of time to prepare for the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi. But discipline, hard work and court smarts proved to be the right ingredients in allowing the team to end the Philippines’ reign in the competition and win the gold medal recently.

“The players here are not that talented like in the Philippines, but they are disciplined, have high basketball IQ and they are hard workers,” wrote Rajko Toroman in an exclusive online interview with ABS-CBN News.

Toroman, an Olympian, was no stranger to Philippine basketball, having coached the first batch of Gilas Pilipinas team in 2008 all the way to a fourth-place finish in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship.

He believes that preparation is essential in any major international competition and that the SEA Games should not be treated lightly, seeing the progress and vast improvement of neighboring countries through the years following the creation of various professional basketball leagues in the region.

Prior to ending the Philippine dominance in the region, the Filipinos had been the long-time rulers of the men’s basketball competition in the Games. They were kings of the SEA Games since 1991 and didn’t relinquish the throne until a few days ago when a more determined Indonesian side ended their reign. 

“I think that they (Gilas team) were sure that this team will win the SEA Games. Maybe they missed a few players, like Kai Sotto, but all of them are the best players from PBA,” added Toroman, referring to the latest squad coached by Chot Reyes.

“But sending the best players didn’t mean you’re sending the best team. You need balance and chemistry and it also depends on the philosophy of the coach.”

But Indonesia’s program was built towards continues development.

“For sure, we’ve improved the past three years,” added Toroman, now working as project director of the Indonesian Basketball Team and giving way for the ascension of his countryman, Milos Pejic, as new head coach of the squad. 

“We created a program to include young players to the national team. In the first year, we played in the IBL (Indonesian Basketball League) using Team A of the national team, then we played in the IBL with our Team B,” he added. “We organized a camp in Serbia. Our program was slowed down by COVID-19, but we are still improving and our target is to qualify for the World Cup.”

Perhaps, the game-changer for Indonesia was its decision to replace its naturalized player by bringing in a younger player in Marques Bolden to replace Lester Prosper.

Bolden, a 24-year-old, 6-foot-10 athletic big man, played briefly for the Cleveland Cavaliers before he was relegated to the Cavs’ D-League team, the Canton Charge.

He also played for the Salt Lake City Stars before he was contacted to play for the Indonesia men’s basketball team as a naturalized player.

Toroman believes Bolden is a perfect fit for the squad.

“Considering that he came from Duke University, that says everything,” added Toroman. “In the SEA Games, we prepared for one month and Bolden joined us only last May 15 while Derrick Michael Xzavierro came in May 16. We didn’t prepare long.”

Xzavierro is a 6-foot-9, 19-year-old player.

Indonesia, a football nation, has now become the new ruler of the Southeast Asian region and for a country that has one of the largest populations in the world, the sport is going to become bigger from here on.

“We have a lot of population but we are not to deep in talented players, but we have hard-working players,” added Toroman. 

For Toroman, this latest feat will be a big boost as the country tries to qualify for the world stage. The nation has built a new stadium as the team gears up for the game’s biggest basketball event.

“That interest for basketball will improve. We have a FIBA event in Jakarta. We built a new gym for 16,000 people. We put up a young and good team. If we are qualifying for the World Cup, this will be a new era for Indonesia,” added Toroman.