MVP, Ang to form super team

Two of the country’s most powerful tycoons – Manny Pangilinan and Ramon Ang – sat down in a breakthrough meeting late Monday to plot the composition of the national team that will see action in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.,No less than PLDT chief executive officer Al Panlilio broke the news to Daily Tribune, saying that the discussion during the rare meeting was about their collaboration on how to form the best team for the World Cup that the country will co-host with Indonesia and Japan from 25 August to 10 September next year.,Pangilinan, who is known as “MVP” in sports circle, is the managing director and chief executive officer of First Pacific Company Limited, the mother firm of telecommunications giants Smart and PLDT, while Ang is the president and chief executive officer of San Miguel Corporation (SMC).,Forming a very competitive team has never been easy.,Initially, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), the country’s governing body in basketball headed by Panlilio and chaired by Pangilinan, was looking at having a team composed of amateur stars who will train for two to three years under Kiwi-American mentor Tab Baldwin.,But everything changed when the federation trekked a different route and replaced Baldwin with Chot Reyes, the former Gilas Pilipinas mentor who also serves as head coach of TNT Tropang Giga in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).,With Reyes at the helm, Gilas Pilipinas was no longer exclusive to amateur stars.,In fact, during the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi last month, the 58-year-old Reyes injected professional players like June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, Mo Tautuaa and Matthew Wright to join young stars in Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, LeBron Lopez and Will Navarro.,Although the squad fell short of winning the gold medal, the SBP still sees a lot of promise, knowing that with the collection of the country’s brightest basketball stars and longer preparation, making an impact in the World Cup – the most competitive basketball event outside the Olympics – is very much possible.,Panlilio refused to mention any names, but with the breakthrough meeting, the possibility of the SBP tapping SMC stalwarts like Scottie Thompson of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, CJ Perez and Marcio Lassiter of San Miguel Beer and Calvin Abueva, Jio Jalalon and Ian Sangalang of Magnolia to reinforce Gilas Pilipinas becomes high.,“That’s the plan,” said Panlilio, who joined Pangilinan and Ang in the closed-door meeting together with San Miguel sports director Alfrancis Chua and PBA chairperson Ricky Vargas at the SMC headquarters in Pasig City.,“A lot of topics had been discussed. They had nice conversations on so many things, but the main focus was how we can form the most competitive national team and collaborate for the hosting of a global event – the FIBA World Cup 2023.”,Panlilio added that aside from helping form a competitive team, Ang also pledged his all-out support in hosting the World Cup.,The SMC, after all, is regarded as the biggest conglomerate in the country with investments in food, beverage, finance, oil, energy, transportation, infrastructure and real estate.,“We also talked about their commitment to be part of the hosting as sponsors,” Panlilio said.,In his previous statement, Reyes revealed that assembling the best team will not be possible without the help of the PBA.,Reyes, a five-time Coach of the Year in the PBA, stressed that the PBA will play a crucial role in the country’s successful participation in the World Cup.,“We are just asking for patience. We’re preparing for August 2023 (World Cup) and we have to put the best lineup possible,” Reyes said a week after Gilas Pilipinas lost the gold medal in the SEA Games.,“To be honest, I don’t think by 2023, we can’t put the best team without the PBA players. That’s the reality we have to face.”,PBA commissioner Willie Marcial welcomes the outcome of the meeting, saying that they are very much willing to adjust their calendar to give way to the decision of Pangilinan and Ang, who own six teams of the 12 teams in the league – TNT Tropang Giga, NLEX, Meralco, Ginebra, San Miguel and Magnolia.,“I’m not yet privy to the outcome of the meeting, but if they want to form the best team for the World Cup next year, then we’ll be fully supportive,” Marcial said in a telephone conversation with Daily Tribune.,“The league has always been supportive of the national team. But with two team owners – RSA (Ang) and MVP – taking charge, we will further boost that support and help Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup next year.”