DARK AGE: 2003 FIBA Asia Championship (then called Asian Basketball Confederation Championship)
The Dean, Quinito Henson, called it “one of the darkest chapters” in the history of Philippine basketball. The country’s basketball program was simply a mess in 2003, with no player from the PBA fielded in to represent the country in China. The result? A second-to-the-last place finish. Most of the players in the roster eventually made it to PBA, notably Marc Pingris (who got his revenge in 2013), Willy Wilson, and Celino Cruz.
2003 ROSTER: Marc Pingris, Willy Wilson, Celino Cruz, Emerson Oreta, Dennis Madrid, Ricky Calimag, Bitoy Omolon, Romar Menor, Jonathan de Guzman, Bernzon Franco, Richie Melencio, Chris Nicdao
ENTERING THE ALAPAG ERA: 2007 FIBA Asia Championship
After being suspended in the 2005 FIBA Asia Championship, Team Pilipinas sported a new look in 2007 under the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas. The team sent to represent the country in Japan was composed of players from various PBA teams, including Ginebra’s prized tandem of Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand. The team also had a 29-year-old Jimmy Alapag, playing in his first FIBA Asia tournament. The All-Filipino team finished ninth with a 5-2 record.
2007 ROSTER: Mark Caguioa, Danny Seigle, Jimmy Alapag, Dondon Hontiveros, Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams, Gabe Norwood, Mick Pennisi, Kerby Raymundo, Jayjay Helterbrand, Renren Ritualo, Eric Menk
The Philippines landed in the Group of Death, and was matched up against the giants of Iran, Jordan, and China.
POWERADE TEAM PILIPINAS: 2009 FIBA Asia Championship
PBA standouts Cyrus Baguio and James Yap carried the scoring load for the Philippine team at the 2009 FIBA Asia, which served as a qualifier for the 2010 FIBA World Championship. After dropping games to Jordan, Qatar, and South Korea, the Yeng Guiao-led team ended the tournament at the 8th spot.
2009 ROSTER: Jared Dillinger, Kerby Raymundo, Sonny Thoss, Asi Taulava, Japeth Aguilar, Gabe Norwood, Willie Miller, James Yap, Mick Pennisi, Jayjay Helterbrand, Cyrus Baguio, Arwind Santos
In the video below, Baguio scorched South Korea with fancy dribbles and nifty lay-ups, but it wasn’t enough to end The Curse.
PAMBANSANG KUYA: 2011 FIBA Asia Championship
In 2011, young guns JVee Casio and Chris Tiu made their names known to the Asian stage under the Smart-sponsored team Gilas Pilipinas. It was also the first tournament of naturalized center Marcus Douthit, who dominated all nine games with averages of 22ppg and 12rpg. Smart Gilas had a chance to win bronze, but again fell to rivals South Korea.
2011 ROSTER: Mark Barroca, Chris Tiu, JVee Casio, Japeth Aguilar, Mac Baracael, Asi Taulava, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Jimmy Alapag, Marcus Douthit, Kelly Williams, Ranidel de Ocampo
The Curse. Again.
PUSO: 2013 FIBA Asia Championship
It was a storybook ending to the long struggles of Team Philippines. The Chot Reyes-led Gilas Pilipinas made history by winning the silver medal at the 2013 FIBA Asia, and qualifying for the FIBA World Championship for the first time since 1978. In all nine games, the team brought with them the experience and infectious passion that was perfectly summed up in a catchy, one-word slogan: puso.
2013 ROSTER: Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, Marc Pingris, Marcus Douthit, Junemar Fajardo, Gabe Norwood, Ranidel de Ocampo, LA Tenorio, Larry Fonacier, Gary David, Jeff Chan, Japeth Aguilar
To book a ticket to return to the world basketball stage for the first time in nearly 40 years, Gilas, in front of thousands of Filipinos, had to go through South Korea—a team that haunted Olsen Racela’s nightmares for years. Get your tissues ready.
Will Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, Jayson Castro, Marc Pingris, Sonny Thoss, Andrey Blatche, Dondon Hontiveros, JC Intal, Asi Taulava, Gabe Norwood, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, and Ranidel de Ocampo again bring pride and honor to the country? Regardless of the win-loss tally at the end of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, the answer is a resounding yes.
The 2015 FIBA Asia Championship will be held from September 23 to October 3, 2015 in China.
[2013 Gilas celebration photo by KC Cruz of GMA News; Pingris-Wilson photo by Nuki Sabio; Gilas team photos by FIBA; thumbnail artwork by Finney Mann]