Legends inspire Gilas to achieve
“I disagree when they say you can win because I say you will win,” said Genato, now 89 and a member of the 1954 Philippine team that took the bronze medal in the FIBA World Cup – the highest finish ever by an Asian country – in Rio de Janeiro. File
MANILA, Philippines — Basketball legend Tony Genato declared in no uncertain terms that the Philippines will win over Kazakhstan at the MOA Arena tonight in the fifth window of the FIBA Asia/Pacific World Cup Qualifiers, joining other hardcourt heroes of yesteryears in inspiring the national team at a send-off organized by the SBP in the Meralco Multi-Purpose Hall the other day.
“I disagree when they say you can win because I say you will win,” said Genato, now 89 and a member of the 1954 Philippine team that took the bronze medal in the FIBA World Cup – the highest finish ever by an Asian country – in Rio de Janeiro. Genato, the spitfirish guard who was the Jayson Castro of his era, took the occasion to ask Gilas coach Yeng Guiao if his “ass” was 100 percent, referring to the recent altercation with Jordan coach Joey Stiebing in a practice game. Stiebing confronted Guiao, saying he would “take his ass,” before backing off and surrendering the contest with 6:26 left and the Philippines on top, 82-73.
“Don’t worry,” Guiao replied to Genato. “My ass is intact.” Genato said the team is in good hands with Guiao. “The key is to play as a team, not as individuals,” he stressed. “When we used to play, we went up against bigger and stronger players like 6-9 Clyde Lovellette and 7-foot Bob Kurland of the US. I remember Bill Russell holding up his big hands, saying they were dollars to him. In the 1952 Olympics, Uruguay finished the game against France with only three players and still won. Uruguay was a rugged team and Caloy (Loyzaga) and I told the Uruguay captain if they play dirty, we can play dirty, too. I know the Philippines is under probation by FIBA and teams are out to test us by playing physical. But I’m sure the referees will be fair in calling the games and we won’t be at a disadvantage.”
Genato said Iran will be a tougher opponent than Kazakhstan. “Iran has big, physical players and they’ve played together for years,” he said. “We beat Kazakhstan in the last Asian Games and I think they have difficulty taking care of the ball. If we play as a team, we’ll win, basta walang kanya-kanyahan. Our team has height, quickness and exceptional talent. During my time, I used to rebound a lot, not just because I could jump high but also because of timing and anticipation. When we needed a possession, Caloy would deliberately miss a free throw and I would get the rebound. We did things to make the team better, to give us a better chance to win.”
Guiao paid tribute to the legends who attended the gathering – Paing Hechanova, Turo Valenzona and Robert Jaworski. “I owe a debt of gratitude to the Hechanova, Araneta and Concepcion families because they gave me the break to play and coach,” he said. “One of my teammates in Swift was Joey Concepcion. I was later coach Turo’s assistant and in the PBA, I coached against Sen. Jaworski and even Baby Dalupan. I recall Chito Loyzaga was on Sen. Jaworski’s team while Chito’s brother Joey was on my team.”
Guiao said it was special that at the send-off, the past, present and future of Philippine basketball were in attendance. The legends were Genato, Hechanova, Valenzona, Jaworski, Manny Paner, Marte Samson, Jimmy Mariano and Ed Roque. The late Caloy Loyzaga was represented by his son Chito and the late Kurt Bachmann by his son Dickie. The PBA players were the present and Ricci Rivero stood for the future. Kai Sotto, another future star, skipped the event to attend classes.