First of all, we need to be reminded on why the Smart Gilas program was established in the first place. Essentially, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) was starting to get tired of lending its players to the National Team, and not getting consistent, good results (i.e., medal standing finishes). The Samahang Basketbolista ng Pilipinas or SBP therefore offered an alternative, and it is the Smart Gilas program.
The program aims to form a national team mainly of players outside of the PBA, and keep it for a relatively long time. It will have good funding, good training programs, good exposure in international competitions, and have the best available coaches possible.
The pool of Smart Gilas players ended up composed mostly of the best players from local colleges, and so called Fil-Foreigners (players with mixed foreign and Filipino blood) from schools abroad. Some of these Fil-Foreigners have excellent credentials, coming from US NCAA Division 1 schools.
In terms of execution, I think the program has done very well so far. It has been able to get most of the best college players in the country, and has been able to discover Fil-Foreign talent as well. It has been able to expose these players in various international competitions all over the world. It has the best coaches available to it, and funding (or money) is almost never a problem.
In hindsight, though, it would seem to me that the progam is in fact, a RETROGRESSION for the Philippines. This program reminds me of the USA’s policy before of sending its best college players to compete in major international tournaments. It worked for awhile, but when the world started to catch up to the US in basketball starting around the 1990s, it ended up being a disaster, in that the US National Team was being beaten by other countries, shutting it out of the medal race.
Nowadays, the US’ National Basketball Association (NBA) is allowing its best players to play in major international tournaments, as long as the player is willing to play. And here we are, generally keeping our pros from playing in international competitions, and getting college players instead.
‘Experience, and Survival of the Fittest’
The US College Players failed for a number of reasons, first of which was the fact that they were boys playing against men. You had players in their late teens and early twenties playing against players who were in their mid twenties to early thirties, or players who easily have a five or ten year advantage in terms of experience.
Another, more important factor, is the fact that the colleger players were not the best in the country. They were the best in college, but not in the whole country. They therefore were not sorted out from a selection of the best the country can offer.