Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fair Play: The Jason Castro effect and what Cesafi missed

BACK in our hometown, I'd usually watch that late pickup game between neighborhood kids and one character always standout.

We called him Cocoy.  And boy could he drive.  He could make those crazy layups that always impressed the few who watched him, never mind if he rarely hit the ring.

At one point, during a tournament, the barker said, "Cocoy with another crocodile drive!"  Because he'd make those drives even if there were shooters open to his left and right.

Why am I talking about Cocoy?  Because apparently, coach Chot Reyes had guys like Cocoy in mind when he took over the Gilas Pilipinas.

In a rather unusual interview by Jessica Soho for her State of the Nation program, Coach Chot said he based the Gilas brand of play, or identity, on those crazy drives that you'd see in almost all pick-up games.

Did it work?

I think their silver medal finish in the Fiba Asia tournament says so.

And that silver medal, and how the Philippines earned it, I think will influence this generation of Philippine basketball.

One colleague once explained why Korea has such great shooters and he said it's all about boys emulating their idols.  The most famous Korean player a generation--sorry, his name escapes me--was a great shooter and kids learning the game started emulating their idol.

I hope Jayson Castro will have that same effect.

Jessica Soho said that the Philippines should develop players who would be like Jimmy Alapag, guys who can shoot.  But, as Chot said, there are hundreds of Jimmy Alapags and I take his word for it.

But Castro is a rare gem.

I hope somebody, out there, is practicing his Castrom moves.  A few 5'5" random kids, who, eventually would grow up to 6'6" or 6'8" even and retain that quickness he started with.

Wouldn't that be something?

I know the players in Gilas Pilipinas know what they have done and they are right in saying they achieved the dream of every Filipino.

But I think it goes beyond that.

They won against South Korea with our best man on the bench, injured.

What does that say to those who are underdogs?

And then there's Castro, the little guy, making a mockery of opposing centers, including that 7'2" behemoth that is Hamed Haddadi.

That guy played in the NBA.

And Jason Castro, the little guy, just showed us that us Pinoys--sometimes mocked for being fascinated with the game of heights--can compete with guys in the NBA.

Pinoy fans are fascinated about who they think would be the first Pinoy in the NBA and I always thought it's going to be one raised abroad.  I no longer think that way.  I think, somewhere down the road, some kid who will start patterning his game after Castro, will make it.

CESAFI.  I'm really disappointed at Cesafi, I think they missed a really huge opportunity to support Philippine basketball.  One writer from a national daily wrote, "Where were you when Gilas Pilipinas faced the Iranians?"  Well, like the writer said, I and millions of others were glued to the TV set but that doesn't hold true for those players who had a Cesafi game scheduled at that time.

I know Cesafi isn't flexible but please, in the biggest basketball game the Philippines has ever in in years it never occurred to them to postpone or adjust their schedule? So the players, coaches and officials could watch the match, which incidentally, featured Cesafi's most famous alumnus--June Mar Fajardo.

When every sports fan in the country—and even the non-sports fan—had their eyes and attention only on Gilas to support the team, the Cesafi was business as usual.

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