by Brian Yalung
There is no doubt that Philippine basketball has improved a lot the past years. The country now has a deep pool of talent, players blessed with agility and talent. However, the same scenario holds true as well in the international scene. Other teams have improved and gotten stronger as well.
In an exclusive interview with former Philippine national coach Filomeno “Pilo” Pumaren, he acknowledged that the sport has improved immensely compared to their time. However, it was he who also pointed out how teams from other regions have improved.
“Ang tingin ko ang player ngayon mas nag-improve. Masyado ang improvement nila. Ang masama lang mas na-improve din yung kabila, yung ibang teams. Ibig kong sabihin, di tayo masyado pang makadikit. Di kagaya dati, medyo nakakadikit pa tayo. Kagaya yung sa mga Asian palaging nakaka-angat pa rin tayo. Ngayon, yun lang ang deperensya. Nag-improve nga tayo, yung kabila nag-improve din,”
Height was once seen as a big problem for the Philippines. It is one of the reasons why the country prioritized naturalizing taller foreign players. Now, with taller Filipinos available, Pumaren singled out how the height advantage needs further evolution.
Height is an advantage in the local basketball scene. But according to Pumaren, that does not mean that a player should stop evolving his game. That is the case at the international level. Bigger players find ways to improve, aware that size may not always be an advantage.
“Kung sa height lang, nag-improve tayo. Ang deperensya lang, yung iba nag-improve din. Nahihirapan tayo. Ngayon ang competition natin sa mga local games, iba ang competition pag foreign teams. Kasi ang tingin ko, yung mga pinaka malaki dinodomina yung maliliit. Ayaw na nilang mag-excel,'” Pumaren said.
“Pag dating sa international, pare-pareho lang laki nila. Pero pag ico-compare natin sa ibang player…malayo. Maski sa depensa masyadong mahirap,” he added.
However, coach Pumaren believes that the Philippines will eventually catch up. And one department he believes that needs work is improving on the defensive end.
“Aabot, aabot. Dahil ang tingin ko ang improvement natin sa player talagang nag-improve. Ngayon kaunting-kaunti na lang kailangan. Kasi ang philosophy ko para tayo makasunod sa kanila, wag lang tayong makakalimot sa depensa. Sila nakaka-shoot ng di nahihirapan. Dapat tayo naman pahirapan natin silang mag-shoot. Pero tayo nahihirapan mag-shoot eh,” explained the veteran coach.
Pumaren remains hopeful that players will eventually realize their shortcomings. Making it hard for opposing players is a start. However, he believes that Filipino players also need to find ways to score even after playing good defense.
“Dadating ang panahon na mare-realize yan ng mga bata. Dapat isipin nila bat sila natatalo. Magaling silang shumoot. Ang masama lang, nahihirapan tayong umiskor. Nakaka-score tayo pero hirap. Di kagaya ng pag kailangan mo ng score nakaka-score agad. Yan ang deperensya. Kaya lang kailangan talagang pagtiyagaan natin ang depensa natin,” he added.
Having faced different international teams in the past, Pumaren mentioned some of the changes he observed from foreign players.
“Dati yung mga European, di buma-block. Di maka-dunk. Wala rin silang jump hook dati. Panay jump shot. Jump shot lang kasi nahihirapan mag-dribble. Kaya ibig kong sabihin, yung kaya nating gawin nakakaya nilang gawin. Nung araw, yung ginagawa natin nahihirapan sila. Pero ngayon dina pwede. Kasi ang training nila ganon na rin. Kung ano ginagawa ng maliit kailangan gawin ng malaki,” he said.
Despite the massive talent available, Pumaren believes that height is not the sole solution to become formidable in international competition. It all falls on the drive of a player, big or small, on improving their game.
There are a lot of questions on Philippine basketball right now. But Pumaren is convinced that all these will eventually be resolved. It all starts by identifying flaws and what needs to be done to correct them.
“Darating ang panahon aabot tayo dun. Kung gagawin natin dapat nating gawin,” Pumaren ended.