Smart Gilas Pilipinas is the men’s national basketball team of the Republic of the Philippines. The men’s national basketball team program is spearheaded by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Manny V. Pangilinan and Executive Director Sonny Barrios and supported by SBP Vice-Chairman Ricky P. Vargas and telecommunications giant Smart Communications, Inc. The team is to be composed of the best Filipino cagers to come out of collegiate basketball and the best players from the Philippine Basketball Association “PBA”.
In December 2008, the SBP appointed Serbian Rajko Toroman to be Project Director and Head Coach of Smart Gilas Pilipinas program. Coach Rajko steered Iran to the 2007 FIBA-Asia Championships title in Tokushima, Japan, and a first ever Olympics stint in basketball. Toroman’s main objective with the program was to win the 2011 FIBA Asia Championships in Wuhan, China and qualify for the biggest stage in sports, the 2012 London Olympics.
Toroman initially put together a team composed of mainly the best collegiate players at that time. The team’s guard line-up was made up with team captain and former Ateneo Blue Eagle Chris Tiu, co-captain and FEU’s Mark Barroca, and La Salle’s JV Casio. Leading the cast of shooters are UAAP stalwarts Dylan Ababou of UST, and Mac Baracael of FEU, and Fil-Am US collegiate players Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter. The tall frontline is led by the standout from Western Kentucky Japeth Aguilar and San Sebastian’s Jason Ballesteros. Naturalized Filipino 6’11” Marcus Douthit completes the cast.
The team represented the country in various tournaments here and abroad.
In 2011, in an extraordinary turn of events, the PBA, through its Board of Governors and Commissioner Chito Salud, offered some of its best players to boost the line-up of the team for the FIBA Asia Championships in Wuhan. This resulted into a 4th place finish in the tournament. Although the team failed to qualify for the London Olympics, the team had its best placing in the tournament in 27 years.
Encouraged by the outcome in the FIBA Asia Olympic qualifier, the SBP and the PBA decided to work together to be able to come up with the strongest team possible to represent our country.
This development resulted in the appointment of a new Program Director and Head Coach in multi titled mentor Chot Reyes.
Reyes’ objective this time was lead a team composed of the best PBA players to a top 3 finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships. Finishing in the top 3 will automatically make the Philippines qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Championships in Spain.
Preparations started in 2012. Reyes led a team made up of all PBA players and won the 34th William Jones Cup in Taipei in August. The following month Gilas placed 4th in the 4th FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup in Tokyo.
2013 saw Reyes form a 17 man pool of players made up of Talk n Text’s Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, Jared Dillinger, Larry Fonacier, Ranidel de Ocampo, Ryan Reyes, Kelly Williams; Global Port’s Gary David and Japeth Aguilar; Rain or Shine’s Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood; Ginebra’s LA Tenorio; Petron’s Junmar Fajardo, San Mig’s Marc Pingris; Alaska’s Sonny Thoss; Nlex’ Greg Slaughter; and naturalized Filipino Marcus Douthit.
The pool was further reduced with injuries sidelining Ryan Reyes, Kelly Williams, Jared Dillinger, and Sonny Thoss. Coach Chot Reyes added Beau Belga to the pool to add depth to the now depleted pool.
From this pool came the final 12 players who represented our country in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships in Manila.
The Gilas Pilipinas Team for the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships in Manila was made up of: Jimmy Alapag, LA Tenorio, Jeff Chan, Jayson Castro, Gary David, Ranidel de Ocampo, Gabe Norwood, Marcus Douthit, Larry Fonacier, Junemar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, and Marc Pingris.
This gallant band managed to finish 2nd in tournament. This feat brought the Philippines back to the FIBA World Cup (held in Spain) after 38 long years.
In 2014, Gilas flew to Spain for the FIBA World Cup. Gilas ended in 21st place. Ahead of Finland, Korea, and Egypt.
Ever since the program started, the Philippines improved its FIBA ranking from No. 53 to No. 45 to No. 34 and now, No. 31.
Before the program started in December 2008, nobody even considered the Philippines as a country that can be a contender… not at the Asian level… all the more not on the Global stage.
The Gilas Program continues to strive for respect. It continues to fight for our country’s honour. And it will continue to battle for every Filipino. It is through the support of MVP, the PBA and Smart Communications that the dream lives on.