MANILA, Philippines - Smart-Gilas national basketball team coach Rajko Toroman said yesterday from his experience in the Olympics and other FIBA-sanctioned competitions, late lineup charges are allowed to cover for injuries or players who may be out of shape.
As FIBA will supervise the conduct of the Asian Games competition, Toroman said he hopes the Guangzhou organizing committee will accommodate the Philippines’ request to tweak the basketball roster before the start of hostilities in November.
Toroman submitted a 12-man lineup to beat the Asian Games Sept. 30 deadline for the accreditation of athletes. Since the submission, Fil-Ams Chris Lutz and Sol Mercado were issued Philippine passports, clearing the way for their eligibility to play for the country in Guangzhou. If the Senate approves Marcus Douthit’s naturalization on third reading on or before Oct. 16, the 6-10 center from Providence College will also be eligible. Lutz, Mercado and Douthit may be Toroman’s late replacements in the Gilas roster.
“It’s not usual to hold a team to its lineup 2 1/2 months before a competition because of the eventuality of injuries or players who may be out of condition for whatever reason,” said Toroman. “In FIBA-supervised international competitions such as the Olympics, lineup changes are allowed three to five days before the start of the tournament. The changes are discussed during the team managers’ meeting. I see no reason why FIBA won’t allow late changes in the Asian Games unless the overall organizers refuse.”
SBP executive director Noli Eala said if there are additions or replacements, accreditation will be done on a case-to-case basis directly with the Asian Games organizing committee. The process will require individual visa applications. Gilas team manager Frankie Lim said Moying Martelino, an official of the Philippine delegation to Guangzhou, is familiar with the process of filing for late accreditation.
At the moment, the Gilas roster lists Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams, Chris Tiu, J. V. Casio, Greg Slaughter, Mac Baracael, Mark Barroca, Marcio Lassiter, Japeth Aguilar, Aldrech Ramos, Jason Ballesteros and Dylan Ababou.
Toroman said Lassiter is expected to arrive any day now after finishing therapy in the US. “I’m hoping Marcio will play in the Asian Games,” he said. “But he has to be committed. He’s our best player, the only one whom I think can play in the European leagues. It’s not right what he did, that he left without telling anyone. He has apologized for it. Let’s hope he’s back on track.”
Toroman said it’s difficult to predict what will happen in Guangzhou.
“It’s anybody’s game,” he said. “Jordan will send its B team without Rasheim Wright, Sam Daghles and Enver Soobzokov. Iran will be without Hamed Haddadi, Arsalan Kazemi and probably Samad Nikkhah Bahrami who is still injured. Lebanon may or may not play with Jackson Vroman, depending on whether he signs a contract to play in Europe. Qatar is down to seven healthy players because their coach (Ali Fakhroo) is working the players too hard in practice. I’m not sure if China will play Yi Jianlian who is in the NBA. So the competition is wide open.”
In the Asian Games, the Philippines must dispose of Saudi Arabia in the first round to join Chinese-Taipei, Iran, Qatar, Japan and Afghanistan or India in Group F in the second round. The top four in Group F will advance to the crossover quarterfinals.
Toroman and his wife Tanya were recently visited by their daughter Sandra and three-year-old grandson Djordje in Manila for a month. Sandra lives in Serbia with her husband Mladen Sekularac and Djordje. Sekularac, 29, was the Dallas Mavericks’ second round pick in the 2002 NBA draft.
Djordje, who stands three feet and 4 1/2 inches, is projected to grow up to 6-9. He is the apple of Toroman’s eye.
“When Rajko was in China with Gilas, he used to call three or four times a day to talk to Djordje,” said Tanya. “During Djordje’s visit, he would be with Rajko all the time. They even slept together. Once, during a Gilas practice game, Djordje, sitting behind the bench, reached out to embrace Rajko. We know we spoil Djordje but that’s what grandparents are for. Rajko is also very close with Sandra. She would go with Rajko to watch games when she was single. Once, in Holland, they drove three hours in a snowstorm just to watch a game up in the mountains.”
Toroman and Tanya, now married for 31 years, met as university students. After graduation, Toroman worked eight years as a chief executive of a trading company in Serbia. Then, Toroman got a call from the basketball club that he played for since his university days. The offer was to coach the team.
“Rajko was a point guard when he played,” said Tanya, an accomplished businesswoman who used to work for an electric power company and managed the distribution of Levi’s apparel and Suzuki cars and motorcycles in Serbia. “He always looked to pass first before shooting. Rajko was a good three-point shooter. He felt it was more important to get the entire team involved rather than just one man dominating.”
From coaching a club in Serbia, Toroman was recruited to call the shots for a Division I pro team in Greece when stars like Zarko Paspalj, Nicky Gallis and Alexander Volkov played. It began an odyssey that took Toroman to coaching jobs in Poland, Belgium, Holland, Cyprus, China, Hungary, Iran and finally the Philippines.
Of all the countries he has worked in, Toroman said the Philippines and Belgium were the standouts. “The Filipinos are just as friendly as the Serbs,” said Toroman whose brother lives in Los Angeles with their 84-year-old mother. “Belgium is a beautiful country, too. I don’t think there’s another country like the Philippines where basketball is as well-loved.”
Joaquin Henson, Philippine Star