Alaska chairman Wilfred Steven Uytengsu bristles at the suggestion that the squad is unwilling to support the national cause, after rumors cropped up that the team traded LA Tenorio because of the star guard’s desire to continue playing for the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national program.
A company release on Friday denied that the Tenorio deal had anything to do with his SMART-Gilas stint, pointing out Alaska was the only team in the PBA with three players who played in the national lineup for the 34th William Jones Cup: Tenorio, Sonny Thoss, and Mac Baracael.
The three Aces were also the only PBA players who saw action for the SMART-Gilas select team that won the Southeast Asian Basketball Association Cup, the qualifier for the FIBA Asia Cup in September.
“We lent three of our key players to the Jones Cup tournament because we knew it was a big tournament and we are proud of the entire team’s accomplishment,” said Uytengsu.
“But it’s also time that other companies step up their support of the national team as we have been doing so since the mid-90s,” he added, referring to the company’s support of the 1998 Philippine Centennial Team, which featured Alaska players Johnny Abarrientos, Kenneth Duremdes, and Jojo Lastimosa as well as coach Tim Cone, the last Filipino squad to win the Jones Cup before this year.
The Centennial Team was also the last Philippine side to medal in a high-level Asian competition, winning bronze in that year’s Asian Games. It came at a price for Alaska, since it missed out on a chance to complete a second Grand Slam that season.
Uytengsu said that the team’s reluctance to lend players again for the FIBA Asia Cup was due to the fact that it saw the competition as “less significant” than the Jones Cup, a 34-year-old tournament.
“We believe the FIBA Asia Cup, (formerly known as the Stankovic Cup) in Japan later this month to be of less significance and do not see the need to contribute players,” he said.
“Nevertheless, we are making Sonny available for the FIBA Asia Cup on a limited basis.”
He added that players also have a commitment with Alaska, which is coming off one of its worst seasons in franchise history. The FIBA Asia Cup wraps up on September 22, barely a week before the start of the new season of the PBA.
“We need to focus on our campaign for the upcoming season given our sub-par performance last season and we need our players to be focused and healthy. I talked to the team about this right after our last game in June and the players committed to making the sacrifices necessary to regain competitiveness. We want a team of players who will live by this commitment,” said Uytengsu.
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