Another major international tournament, another failure for the RP NT to reach its goal of at least second place in Asia.
‘The RP NT’
This team is arguably the best the PBA can offer at the time. It has a pair of fast and superb playmakers in “The Mighty Mouse” Jimmy Alapag and “The Furious” Jayjay Helterbrand; A deep rotation of Shooting Guards and Small Forwards in defensive whiz and three-point deadshot Dondon Hontiveros; “The Fast” or “The Spark” Mark Caguioa; NCAA Division one school PG Gabe Norwood; And “The Rainman” Renren Ritualo.
The frontline consists of some of the best rebounders in the PBA: Man-mountain Asi Taulava and “Major Pain” Eric Menk; At Power Forward, you have the explosively athletic Kelly Williams; The lion-hearted “Kerbinator” Kerby Raymundo; And the PBA’s walking mismatch, Danny Seigle.
‘The Actual Games’
Coach Chot Reyes envisioned at team that is FAST, and yet can break anybody off the dribble, or shoot the lights out of anyone at a half court offense. That vision became true in minor International tournaments like the four-nation Manila Invitationals, and the Jones Cup. However, come crunch time in Tokushima, the teams which we either beat (Iran) or had a close game with (Jordan) in the Jones Cup simply tightened their individual defenses, and the RP NT simply crumbled under those defenses.
Of particular note, was how our players who were performing superbly before suddenly found their guns jammed by the hurried shots they were forced to take because of the tightened individual defense. Caguioa, the team’s star in previous minor tournaments, suddenly found his teardrop shots missing badly. Dondon couldn’t hit his vaunted three-point shots. Danny Seigle, whom I expected to be the caliber of Iran’s Bahrami brothers, ended up making a mess out there on the floor.
The result: The RP NT got eliminated in the first round, relegating itself to a battle for ninth place.
My personal goal for this team, was for it to lose a close game to China, but beat everybody else. Ironically, we WON against China, not just once, but twice. But then again, we lost to eventual champion Iran, and then to Jordan. Of course, the China we beat was their “lesser” Team B rather than the powerhouse Team A I envisioned when I set those personal goals for the team. But still, a win is a win. In the end, though, we still ended up losing twice to middle eastern teams.
I have seen enough over the years, and with heavier competition coming from Middle East and Far Eastern teams, it is very unlikely if we will ever see the country again become at least number two in Asia. During the next major competitions, I intend to lower the goals and expectations to more realistic levels.
‘RP NT’s Unforgettable Moments’
Despite the disappointing finish, this team did have more than a couple of memorable moments for it. Here are some that I recall:
– The team’s loss to be a bunch of Japanese college players in the Jones Cup, which provoked a public outcry. This caused the team to end up generally playing better in the next subsequent games.
– Kelly William’s spectacular two-handed dunks during the games, all the way from the Jones Cup to Tokushima.
– The Mighty Mouse doing everything to help the team win: Hitting the outside shot, penetrating the lane, handing off assist, controlling the tempo, coming up with smart plays, and egging on his teammates. Without Jimmy, it’s hard to envision this team going anywhere near being competitive.
– Mark Caguioa’s “unstoppable” teardrop shots in the Jones Cup and the Manila Invitationals, only to have those same shots end up a bust against the tighter defenses put up by our opponforments in Tokushima.
– Same thing with Hontiveros, Caguioa, Norwood and Renren’s South Korean-NT caliber three-point shooting that was so memorable in the Jones Cup, but evaporated in Tokushima.
– “The Kerbinator’s” heroic last quarter stand against the much taller frontline of the Iranian National Team in Tokushima.
– Asi Taulava’s rebounding, and individual defense in bodying up against the 7’3″ Ha Seung Jin of South Korea and 7’2″ Hamed Ehaddadi of Iran, negating their effectiveness in the paint.
– Kelly William’s defensive gems against the Chinese in Tokushima, rebounding, making interceptions and steals.
– Norwood beating his chest with both hands like King Kong everytime he completed a dunk in the Jones Cup.