by Rey Joble
JAKARTA — The Replacements. The Pinch Hitters. The Substitutes.
Call them whatever you want, but the country’s representatives to the men’s basketball competition of the Asian Games is not Gilas Pilipinas. Asi Taulava, the oldest player on the squad at 45, explained to FOX Sports Philippines why.
“We don’t call ourselves Gilas,” Taulava said in an exclusive interview. “We are the replacements for the Gilas guys here in the Asian Games. You can call us the Rain or Shine-backed Philippine squad, Pilipinas or the Philippine team, but we are not Gilas.”
Taulava said that it’s only appropriate to give credit where credit is due, but this batch off national team players are under the program of his long-time coach Yeng Guiao. Taulava, along with two-time MVP James Yap and national team mainstay Gabe Norwood used to play for Guiao’s Powerade Pilipinas team in 2009.
“This is the continuation of Coach Yeng’s program. We were running the same plays before, the same semantics,” said Taulava. “We were not successful before as we still couldn’t understand what we’re running. Now, we’re starting to learn it more.”
Guiao explained that although he was named as coach of the Philippine squad to the Asian Games and the national team in the next window of FIBA Asia World Cup qualifier, he remains firm that he’s only pitching in for Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes, who got suspended along with several other players following the free-for-all incident against Australia.
“I’m just trying to hold the fort for Chot,” Guiao said. “But I think our team competing in the Asian Games have its own identity. We don’t run the same system as Gilas, but just like them, we take pride on representing the country.”
“Guys like Asi and James don’t have many more chances left pagdating sa international competitions. Sabi ko nga sa kanila baka ito na yung huling national team stint nila so I told them to make a lasting impression,” he shared.