Aug 06, 2015 Uncategorized Comments Off on Missing Danding Cojuangco (Business Mirror (Philippines))
COACH Tab Baldwin’s wish list had indeed taken a battering.
Immediately after he released the composition of his 16-man pool-the aspirants’ pool of old-for his Gilas Pilipinas, his face must have turned into deep purple.
He had not exercised the power to choose. He had seen it slip away days ago.
It was an ill-omened start for this team on whose shoulders we rest our country’s hopes to return to Olympic basketball after four decades in the wilderness.
The man he thought would lead this team, June Mar Fajardo, was gone, banished into the sidelines, it was reported, by a bad foot that is taking longer to heal.
It was an un-MVP-like escape from the call of duty for this young man who has not matched his huge talent with as big a love for country.
And though he had known for days that they would not be available, Baldwin still insisted on penciling in the names of Marc Pingris of Star and LA Tenorio of Ginebra.
Whether it was a show of an undying hope for miracles or just a plain act of futility, we could only guess at the motive that resided in Baldwin’s heart.
Take out the names of those three stars, and what do you have left on this Gilas national team? A team down to 13 men.
From any angle, it looks pathetic, even tragic, even to us who kept the hope alive.
Never in our collective memory has a national team, out on a mission to catch a ticket to the Olympics, been saddled with a greater misfortune than this one.
Or been mutilated by what looked to some sports writers as a players’ mutiny.
This country is awash with hard-court talents-grown on home soil and the US West Coast-but look what Badlwin has been left to work with.
A team that will live or die on the height and strength of the ageless Asi Taulava, who is 42 and could never be a June Mar; an ancient shooter named Dondon Hontiveros, who is 38; and the once explosive but now unpredictably inconsistent Gary David.
This would put an impossibly heavy load on former NBA campaigner Andray Blatche, our naturalized player.
But from the Chinese league, where he makes his living, Blatche blew into town not in the sharpest of form. He has to shed the unwanted pounds, and that takes time.
The little time left that he has to work with the locals would be pitifully inconsequential.
Compared to the preparations of the other nations contending for that prized slot in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next year, the team’s practice time with Blatche and the rest of the Gilas would be like the last two minutes of a must-win game.
That doesn’t inspire confidence in this team, to say the least.
Amid this brouhaha, we are all beginning to reflect on how it was done in the old days-the early 1980s-when basketball had a godfather named Ambassador Danding Cojuangco.
Except for lending the prestige of his name, and the power of his resources to La Salle, in the Green Archers’ bid to re-establish hegemony in the NCAA, Danding’s giant shadow hardly ever crosses the profile of MVP’s Gilas.
Imagine when Danding put that power and prestige to build a national team and his farm team, Northern Consolidated. Imagine when to have a slot in his team was something to die for.
And imagine when he sent the team he built into faraway conquests. The Jones Cup in Taiwan, one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments, counted as one of his jewels.
And when it mattered most, at the crest of his program that was certainly as well-funded as that of Gilas, the team came home with the ultimate prize that brought tears to some: the ABC championship.
In Ipoh, Malaysia, in the early days of January 1985, the national team recaptured in epic fashion the title the Philippines last won in 1973.
After 1985, our succeeding efforts to regain the summit all ended oxygen-starved on the treacherous trail.
Danding’s was the formula that Gilas now routinely employs.
Not only was an American, Ron Jacobs, calling the shots from the bench, but two naturalized players-Dennis Still and Jeff Moore-were also on the floor in the national uniform.
Without a doubt, the duo’s presence mattered a lot, but there was no doubting, too, how heroic the homegrown Filipinos had played.
The team nipped South Korea, 76-72, on January 2, and scrapped China, 82-72, two days later, in a game when that treasured lefty, Allan Caidic, punished the Chinese with his hot shooting. In all he stuffed in 22, the most for the Filipinos.
This was a team that had played so long it knew when to turn on the screws, and who to turn to for point production.
Samboy Lim, named the Skywalker who could fly to the basket and dunk the ball with authority, came through with 16, with Still hitting 14 and Moore 13.
As project director for basketball during the Marcos years, Cojuangco’s initiative peaked with this triumph.
More important now, as we look back at the distance and time traveled from the 1980s, he handed down a template for the development of future national quintets, as basketball was launched into the open era.
By this, I mean a time when no more distinction existed between pros and amateurs, and basketball crossed national boundaries and cultures.
Cojuangco accomplished this at a time Filipino fans had a hard time accepting the presence of naturalized players on the team.
He not only had broken through a barrier. He had given us a vision.
Talking of now, as the elder statesman of the sport, could he help bring the star players back into the Gilas fold?