– Coach Chot Reyes, after beating the US, and winning the 34th William Jones Cup .
HEART. This word repeated over and over again throughout the weak as the Smart Gilas 2.0 faced their very tournament together as a team at the 34th William Jones Cup in Taipei, Taiwan.
The hash tag #Puso was often seen on the post-game tweets of LA Tenorio, Sol Mercado, Coach Chot Reyes, and the rest of the team as they battled through 8 different teams within a span of 9 days. And I believe, this HEART a.k.a. PUSO shall continue to be the driving force behind the campaign of Smart Gilas Pilipinas 2.0. to get to the FIBA World Cup 2014.
This Smart Gilas Pilipinas 2.0 squad, on paper, is not comprised with the cream of the crop of the Philippine Basketball Association but what they lacked in skill they more than made up for it the commitment, dedication, hardwork , and yes, HEART. We saw a team that came together for regular practices a mere 2 weeks before the tournament. A team, who had no aspirations of winning the tournament, whose main objective was to build the chemistry and camaraderie among themselves (players and coaches) both on and off the court, and was somehow able to over-achieve to extreme.
A team whose last 5 of 7 wins came down the wire, whose victories was owed to the heroic exploits of its players whose composure and shooting accuracy seemed to increase when the final moments of the game arrives. A team whose players were willing to fights tooth and nail to bring glory to the nation whose name is printed on their chests...
Next month, another tournament awaits and this time, the opponents will be eagerly waiting to challenge the team again. They have seen who the players are and have scouted what they can do, and they are more than eager to get that loss that they suffered.
We do not know what Coach Chot Reyes and the rest of the coaching staff will decide with regards to the current team roster. We do not know what adjustments they will make and whether other players will be included (and excluded) from the line-up, and a semi-new team will evolve. But regardless of the changing of total skills set of the players, one thing we can be assured of… that the aura that was carried by this last team will also be carried by the semi-new one. They will also NOT “know the meaning of quit”. They will also have the big HEART that will allow them to fight until they have nothing left… because that is the essence behind what makes our brand of basketball a passionate sport… it is not the sport of basketball per se’, but the HEART of the Filipino that beats within each player.
That HEART which enables the nation to help each other through earthquakes and typhoons and enables a communities to rebuild after the destruction of landslides and flash floods; it is that HEART which enables families to survive despite loved ones working abroad, that will endure all hardships for the hope of a brighter tomorrow;
it is that HEART that will fight oppression and discrimination to achieve independence and parity;it is that HEART that knows there is a God that loves them, and that knowledge brings peace and assurance to a nation and people who are struggling to fight its way back to its former glory and splendor.
And it is that same HEART that transformed the “weakest … the least prepared, and the smallest” Philippine team into the 34th William Jones Cup Champions.
And though their quest is far from over, it is our HEART which enables us to BELIEVE that ANYTHING is POSSIBLE, that our goal is within reach, that finally, after decades of being stalled, we are now picking up speed towards that ultimate goal… the FIBA World Cup 2014!