The mighty warrior leader of Korea and other things I taught Clark
In the 18 days that Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) centralized its operations here, many lessons have been learned from this unprecedented “bubble” for the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers as it was the first time. that the Philippines has hosted an international sporting event since the pandemic. has begun.
Bringing in six contingents from overseas, providing world-class accommodation and having a competition venue up to global standards was no easy task, but the local organizing committee was successful.
Seriousness, Filipino hospitality, a sense of genuine camaraderie, and a willingness to adhere to all security protocols all indicate that Clark’s qualifications serve as a model for future staging in these very different times.
Compared to my past involvement as a competition announcer for FIBA sanctioned companies from the 2010 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Doha, Qatar, my immersion here was, in layman’s terms, different.
The lack of a “home” was something I wasn’t used to – even though I had functioned in the same capacity during the closed-door case between Gilas and Qatar at the Big Dome in 2018. There was still field celebrations by the team and hidden fist pumps by the locals in the workforce, but it didn’t even come close to what the MOA had been in 2013.
It was our national team playing at home and the emotional value was lacking, well, emotion.
Nonetheless, there were moments that added to the learnings that I always strive to achieve on every international outing. I’ve narrowed it down to just three new pieces of information that I can divulge in my unique position right in front of the action.
1. The etymology of Ra GunA
Ricardo Ratliffe will always be one of the beloved PBA imports of the past decade. His two stints with Magnolia (then known as Star Hotshots) in 2016, replacing Denzel Bowles, and 2017 will always resonate with local hoop fans.
What many didn’t know was that in 2018 Ratliffe had legally changed his name in his adopted nation to Ra GunA. This is what is printed on his Korean passport, although his US passport still bears his birth name.
During the warm-ups of Korea’s first mission against Gilas, my curiosity could not be contained. Why Ra GunA?
“’Ra’ was taken from my last name ‘Ratliffe’,” he explained. “Whereas ‘GunA’ is meant to mean ‘strong warrior chief.'”
According to Korean media, however, “GunA” translates to “strong child”. Either way, Ricardo Ratliffe is now Korea’s “strong” naturalized player.
After our conversation, when I saw his name as it appeared on the back of his jersey – Ra GA – I immediately took a picture and sent it to pool pro Anton Raga and explained to him how he came from to be immortalized by perhaps the greatest Korean basketball player. commodity today.
2. The way of Feng
The seven head coaches were all unique. Former Smart Gilas head coach and now Indonesian mentor Rajko Toroman was animated by his misguided players and officials. Charlie Parker from Chinese Taipei was the quiet type. Chris Daleo from Thailand used colorful language his performer struggled to follow. Korean Cho Sang Hyun has sometimes appeared more like a big brother than a coach. Julio Lamas of Japan, who has had significant stints as an Argentina shooter, rode different waves of emotion. Of course, Tab Baldwin, him of Gilas Pilipinas, has always brought out his general character on the pitch.
However, the most intriguing for me was the Chinese Du Feng.
The 6-foot-9 has played his entire career in the China Basketball Association with the Guangdong Southern Tigers. From 1997 to 2011, he won seven league titles, while serving in the Chinese national team, and was part of teams that participated in two Olympiads as well as in the Asiad in Busan 2002 where they finished. second behind Lee Sang Minh and Korea.
He started coaching right after his retirement in 2012 and, along with legendary Li Nan, was tasked with forming two Chinese teams that would merge for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, with Li Nan ultimately taking care of that team.
In 2020, Du was given the reins of the national team, with the specific task of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
He carries a militaristic style with him and is often seen berating his players – including Zhou Qi and Zhou Peng – when they even miss a screen or a defensive mission. He even had several run-ins with his coaching staff when a game went awry.
One incident that stood out the most was when his precious 7-foot cross Shen Zijie fell with what was later diagnosed as a hip pointer in the first half of their surprising fight against Japan. Du waited until he was stretchered back to the general area of their bench before berating him for his mistakes – and yes, all of that, as Shen writhed in pain.
There is surely a lot of pressure for Du to produce results ahead of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) and FIBA Asia Cup in August. This is why I am very interested to know how the news that Gilas drew with them when they were finalized will be received at home.
3. The new culture of this incarnation of Gilas
What Toroman did in 2009, using only middle school students in a long-term program, Baldwin repeated because the group of young people who competed in Clark’s qualifiers were devoid of professional talent. What was pleasantly surprising, however, was the discipline and focus displayed by Gilas, with an average age of 22, as they stepped onto the pitch both for the start of training and for preparation one hour before kick-off.
I usually stood on center court to probe their opponents – and make sure I could put an identifying factor on those jersey numbers (especially the Indonesians). The three times I was on the pitch as the Philippines warmed up, I had the opportunity to experience the players who really walked through facets of the game plan by committing to each other.
RJ Abarrentos took Kai Sotto aside and practiced the timing of their pick-and-roll action. Jordan Heading showed Isaac Go exactly when and where to pull the elevator screen. Carl Tamayo shot from one spot for a good five minutes before going to the opposite spot for almost the same time. Many of them also ran to Baldwin or assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga to ask him something specific about a certain execution.
The children were zoned. The new culture made them run consistently before the starters even hit the ground.
Once the game started, the players on the bench were responsible for communicating with the person on the field who shared their position and when they were substituted they then exchanged responsibilities. When Ange Kouame spent long minutes on the bench due to foul issues, he continuously yelled at Sotto, Go and Geo Chiu. By the time he was reinserted, he was almost hoarse.
Many have pointed out that Baldwin’s system was key to sweeping the Philippines out of his group on their way to qualifying for the FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia. However, this is only true because the players are all fully engaged in the system.
Thanks to their new culture, Gilas comes to OQT with renewed vigor and the feeling that anything is possible. Of course, they are no longer just a surrogate nation.