Gilas Pilipinas stays home, while Japan goes to the 2024 Paris Olympics

“Don’t judge us now”, a statement made by Coach Chot Reyes after losing to Lebanon in the 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifying round.

“Judge us by our performance at the World Cup.”, Reyes added.

That faithful judgment day has arrived.  With a 1-4 record in the 2023 FIBA World Cup that ended with a win 21-point emphatic win over China, 97- 75,

Reyes emphasized further, “Through all the preparation and all these times, I always said judge us on the performance in the World Cup”.

Coach Reyes stated the obvious, “And obviously we did not perform.”

To recap the Philippines’ journey in this version of the FIBA World Cup

Philippines 81 Dominican Republic 87

Philippines 70 Angola 80

Philippines 83 Italy 90

Philippines 68 South Sudan 87

Philippines 97 China 75

Top Performers are:

6’5” Guard, Jordan Clarkson, 26 points, 5.2 assists

6’4” Guard, Dwight Ramos, 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists

6’10 Center, Ariel Edu 8.2 points, 8.6 rebounds

6’11” Center, June Mar Fajardo, 5 rebounds

6’1” Guard, Scottie Thompson, 2.2 assists

In contrast, a neighbor and co-host of the event, Japan, ended their quest with a 3-2 record and earned the right to represent Asian Basketball in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Their road was much different. 

Germany 81 Japan 63

Japan 98 Finland 88

Australia 109 Japan 89

Japan 86 Venezuela 77

Japan 80 Cape Verde 71

Japan’s Top Performers:

6’10” Center, Joshua Hawkinson 21.0, 10.8 Rebounds

6’9” Forward Yuta Watanabe 14.8, 6.2 Rebounds

5’8” Guard Yuki Kawamura 13.6, 7.6 Assists

6’5” Guard, Yudai Baba 2.4, 2.2 Assists

5’6” Guard, Yuki Togashi 3.4

The Philippines did one thing good, they rebounded.  By the end of the 1st round, they ranked 18th in Offensive rebounds and ranked 23rd in Defensive rebounds.  Japan ranked 30th and 29th in Offensive and Defensive, respectively.  Simple translation, Japan prioritized transition defense over the Philippines to get extra possessions.

FIBA 2023 Group Phase Rebounding %
FIBA 2023 Group Phase Offensive Rebounding %

A glaring stat-line is the Assist to Turnover Ratio. Japan ranked 15th while the Philippines is near the bottom at 30. The Japanese play a pace and space style like the FIBA game, opening the floor for wide-open lay-ups and perimeter shots while not milking the clock until the defense is set.

FIBA 2023 Group Phase Assist-Turnover Ratio

Another chart to consider and I must concur with Sid Ventura, is the lack of outside shooting. The 3-point shot can be a game-changer. Check out this Bench production vs. Opponent 3-point attempts chart. Japan was never reluctant to hoist them from deep, while the Philippines had fewer attempts against their opponents throughout their campaign.

The Europeans, South Korea, once upon a time – China, and now Japan took notice and established shooting as one of the basic tenets to boost offensive productivity on the basketball court. 

What they lack in sheer athleticism against bigger, faster, and stronger US players, the rest of the world made up for it with outside shooting prowess and fundamental basketball.

For a team that emphasizes guard play, Gilas Pilipinas shot fewer three-pointers while Japan adopted the 3-ball as part of its offense, on both its starters and especially, their bench players. The Philippines bench was unproductive and turnover heavy, unlike their Japanese counterparts who had maximized their bench with license to shoot from 3.

FIBA 2023 Group Phase Bench 3pt Attempts
FIBA 2023 Group Phase Assist-Turnover Ratio by game

Bottomline, Japan has adapted to the FIBA game while the Philippines failed to expand its game to the evolution of the International Game.

Our goal of sending a basketball contingent to the Olympics has been this elusive pipe dream.  Perhaps our affinity for the game or ‘Love’ for the game, has blinded us from looking past our frailties, and our deficiencies in how the business side is conducted. Perhaps, the stakeholders have to figure out how the country can innovate and adapt to the changing basketball landscape, and how to move forward with a concrete, long-term vision. 

We need course correction.  We have the resources, and the benefactors willing to put some stake in the game. The Philippines has checked the box on support and is no longer the issue.

Is the Philippines blinded by its ‘Love’ for the game?

The Philippines has been playing the game of basketball for 100 years, yet we failed to adapt our style of play to compete on the world stage. 

Our Players do not have the same physical attributes as the US players, yet the NBA was our standard, our model, for decades. Until today, the influence of the NBA on our program continues but there are other best basketball ideas out there the Philippines can copy.

Since the 1992 US Dream Team, other countries have realized that they cannot match and compete to the level of the US in terms of size, quickness, and athleticism.

They eventually learned that shooting proficiency and fundamental play would be their primary focus to counteract the US dominance in the game. Slowly but surely, as other countries gain traction, fast forward to today, that plan, that vision has come to fruition. Now that Team USA has been eliminated from the tournament, this might be another turning point in USA Basketball much like the others in the past such as their quest for the Olympic Gold in 1988 Seoul Games, South Korea, and Greece in the 2006 FIBA World Championship.  

USA Basketball also has to realize, and they already know this for a fact after their loss to Germany in the late stages of the tournament, has to come to grips that the world is closing in and no longer has a monopoly, nor the blueprint for the evolution of the game.  We shall leave this topic for another discussion.

Going Insular?  Is not a solution.

The signs are everywhere that the Philippines needs to drastically change how to conduct its basketball business. Every basketball fan, social media pundits included can read the writing on the wall. The answers are pretty obvious.  

Is it a secret? Do we need rocket scientists to figure this out? The stakeholders, they know this.  They are smart people, but they need to embrace this failure and set their ego aside for the greater good. Simple but tough to do, especially when pride and self-interests are in the way of progression.

Chot Reyes was appointed as National Team Coach back in 2012 then led Gilas to a 2nd place finish in 2013 at the FIBA Asia Championship which led to the Philippines’ 1st ever appearance in the FIBA World Cup after languishing in the doldrums of basketball hell for 34 years.  In 2014, Reyes coached the team to a 1-4 finish in the 2014 World Cup before stepping down late that same year.

Reyes resurfaced again in early 2017, then replaced in late 2018 following Gilas’ brawl with Australia in the Asian qualifiers.

Now, after Coach Reyes’s reign? And then what?  SBP will make the change, and appoint his immediate replacement.  Long term, do you really think that would make things better?  That Reyes’ departure after being battered and bashed in Social Media is the solution to the Philippines’ demise? 

For the SBP, do you think appointing a new guy in charge will cure all the problems and vanish?

This will be a process, albeit a long one. As a start, take politics out of the equation. It will be tough because Politicking is ingrained in our culture and society. You might not realize this but it’s probably our favorite pastime, so keep it under wraps and under control for a cause even bigger than you. Also, please refrain from being tribal and do not engage nor hire yes people.    

Another thing. There is no shame in asking for outside help. The idea of hiring a coach from within to take charge of the program has its chance. Hire a coach familiar with the International game with a winning DNA. The Philippine Basketball program is broken. 

With the full weight of the whole basketball-loving country on their shoulders, the stakeholders also have to realize that this is a monumental effort and a cause bigger than their overly inflated ego. 

Is it possible? because impossibility is not a fact but a perception.

Time to swallow the Red Pill and wake up.


What went wrong for Gilas Pilipinas at the FIBA World Cup where do the Philippines go from here

Chot Reyes steps down as Gilas Pilipinas coach after FIBA World Cup

Data Analysis and Charts by Russell Hizon

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