MANILA, Philippines - Having played for the Philippine team that copped the silver medal in the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing, former pro star Chito Loyzaga knows how high the stake is for the Gilas Pilipinas team tasked to do battle in next month’s Asiad in Guangzhou, China.
And he has this piece of advice to the present crop of cagers, whom he feels could pull off surprises in the Nov. 12-27 Asiad: Play all out, all the way.
“They should play like there’s no tomorrow; there’s no time to relax, to save energy for the late stages of the competition,” said Loyzaga, now a commissioner with the Philippine Sports Commission.
“Give it your all. There are 12 of you in the team and if everybody will put their best foot forward, you can achieve something,” he said.
Loyzaga and his all-pro teammates under his Ginebra coach Robert Jaworski placed runner-up to host China 20 years ago, a feat that still stands as the best finish since the PBA started sending players to international competitions in the 1990s.
Known as a defensive specialist and clutch shooter during his heydays, Loyzaga said he has high hopes for the Gilas quintet composed of former collegiate stars like Chris Tiu, Mac Baracael, and JV Casio, and reinforcements Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams and Sol Mercado.
“I have full trust and confidence in the team. They’ve been practicing together for so long and I believe Gilas will surprise us when we get to Guangzhou,” he said.
Gilas is set to play Kuwait in the first round of basketball action in Guangzhou, needing a win to advance to the second round where reigning Fiba Asia champion Iran, 2006 Asiad silver medalist Qatar and Japan are seeded. The winner of the Afghanistan-India first-round encounter will also be a part of the bracket.
Olmin Leyba, Philippine Star