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Despite being away from basketball for over a decade, Robert Jaworski’s passion for the sport has never wavered.

Jaworski, for years the PBA’s living legend, still follows the exploits of the Philippine basketball team, and thinks that the squad is close to being kings in Asian basketball once more.

“Baka mga five years na lang yan and we can become Asian champions again,” said Jaworski, a former Olympian who coached the first all-professional national basketball team to a silver medal in the 1990 Asian Games.

“Napanood ko yung replay ng game ng Philippines versus Korea, medyo kinapos lang tayo, pero alam mong may tsansa tayo.”

The former Ginebra coach said that much of the success of the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team success can be attributed to the hiring of naturalized center Marcus Douthit, whose presence game the Philippine five someone to match up against other behemoths in the region.

“I think we’ve already made the first important move and that’s to get a naturalized player,” he said.

“There was a time when the Philippines played with naturalized players and we won,” said Jaworski, referring to Dennis Still and Jeff Moore, who reinforced the Northern Consolidated-back national team to the gold medal in the 1985 Asian Basketball Confederation tournament, the Philippines’ last major regional title. Curiously, the NCC squad had numerous memorable battles against Jaworski’s Ginebra teams when the national squad played as a guest team in the PBA.

“Now, we have a new naturalized player and we have a great chance of reclaiming basketball glory.”

Serbian coach Rajko Toroman led SMART-Gilas to the Philippines’ best finish in the FIBA Asia tournament since 1987, and his status as national coach is still up in the air. But Jaworski thinks that the choice of coach is less important than having a naturalized big man on the team.

“The coach isn’t the important thing. What is important is unity.  Importanteng magkaisa tayo para sa goal na manalo ng ginto sa FIBA Asia so we can play in the Olympics.”


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