Former PBA coach Franz Pumaren was a member of the last Philippine national men’s basketball that won the FIBA Asia (then known as the Asian Basketball Confederation) Championship in 1986.
He was also part of the national team again in 1994, teaming up with Purefoods stars Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codinera, and Rey Evangelista and then rising star Johnny Abarrientos of Alaska to the Asian Games in Hiroshima.
The multi-titled collegiate coach has seen the evolution of the national program from the days where amateur players represented the country to today’s game where teams send their best professionals to major international tournaments.
And with given everything that he’s seen since that time – he believes that this current Gilas Pilipinas team that won the silver medal in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China could be one of the all-time great Philippine teams.
“We have the best point guard in Jayson Castro. We have the best backup point guard in Terrence Romeo and we have the best defensive player in Gabe Norwood,” Pumaren told InterAksyon.com in a telephone interview.
“Had Andray Blatche played in 100-percent condition, he would have been the best center in the tournament.”
Gilas placed runner-up behind host China, finishing with the silver for a second straight time in FIBA Asia competition.
Two years ago in Manila, they finished behind Iran but qualified for the FIBA Basketball World Cup for the first time in 40 years. This year, they barely missed out on the lone outright berth to the 2016 Rio Olympic basketball tournament, which the Philippines last participated in 1972.
Pumaren believes that Gilas should continue sending the country’s best players in the succeeding tournaments.
“Dapat ganun pa rin ang thinking natin. We should send our best players, the best players who could fit into the system of Coach Tab (Baldwin),” Pumaren said.
“We have good core of players now, particularly having new players like (Terrence) Romeo and Calvin Abueva. If they can keep the core of this team, I think Gilas Pilipinas is headed towards the right direction.”
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