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Asia Cup Qualifiers Draw assistant Alapag recollects the ''The Shot'' in 2013
MANILA (Philippines) – Assisting the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers Draw was an honor reserved for only two Asian basketball greats and Filipino fan favorite, Jimmy Alapag, was one of them. After years of knocking down shot after in shot in the FIBA Asia Cup itself in past editions, here he was as an important part of the first step towards the next round between Asia’s finest.
“It was an absolute honor to represent the Philippines for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers Draw. It was great to have the opportunity to visit Bengalaru for the first time and also meet Japan basketball legend Asami Yoshida,” Alapag humbly said after the event.
The draw was held in the city of Bengaluru with many honored and respected guests in attendance for the historic event. The city itself and India have been active in promoting the sport throughout the country and to have this event held with Alapag’s assistance is just adding on to the list.
“Bengalaru was a great city,” Alapag said of his stay. “It was such a warm welcome from everyone when I arrived in the country. Just wish I had time to explore more of the city.”
The night of the draw was filled with memorable moments, one being when Alapag draw the first country out of the pots to be placed in the group. It was as if fate had set up a comical scene.
“It was funny to see that of all the teams, I happened to draw the Philippines first,” Alapag recalled. “But I think all the groups will be very competitive. I'm hopeful the Philippines will do well.”
Alapag later drew Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand into Group A to join the Philippines. Having played against the teams in Asia for over a decade, Alapag has some idea about what to expect.
“I think Group A will be very competitive. Korea is one of the best teams in Asia, and both Thailand and Indonesia are improving. It'll be important to play well every game,” Alapag said.
Fans will be focusing on the eventual match up against Korea in particular. Not only is it a rivalry game that has produced so many intense basketball matches in the past, it is a game that Alapag has played in and had an impact on as well.
“My most memorable moment in the Asia Cup would definitely be our semifinal game against Korea in 2013,” Alapag said as he took a stroll down memory lane. “It was such a highly competitive game with both teams making big plays. It was an incredible feeling to win the game at home, especially because we had so much bad history against them.”
It was in that game that Alapag hit what might as well be the biggest shot in Philippines basketball history. A three-point dagger with only 54.0 second left in the game by the 1.77M (5’10”) guard put the Philippines up ahead 84-79 and lifted the Philippines through to the Asia Cup finals. It also earned the nation a trip to the FIBA Basketball World Cup, their first in 35 years.
“The shot against Korea was something I think you always dream about as kid,” Alapaged recalled. “Playing in front of a packed crowd, with the chance to win one of the biggest games in the country's history. Marc Pingris set a great screen and gave me an opportunity to get a clean look at the basket. It was a shot I've practiced thousands of times. Just tried to hold my follow through and will the ball into the basket.”
“To be able to share that moment with the entire country is something I'll never forget.”
Those memories are why Alapag – and fans – will be looking forward to the two teams clash at the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers. More intriguingly is that they will be playing against each other twice, once on each on their own home courts.
“Obviously there is a lot of competitive history against Korea through the years. They’re one of the best teams in the region, so it'll be exciting for each country to host a game. I'm sure the crowds will be amazing!”
Though Alapag is now no longer a player, he’s still very much involved in the game as a coach. He’s been a large part of Asian basketball making noise at a global level and will continue to do so from the sidelines. He knows that Asia can only get better and better.
“Basketball in Asia continues to grow,” said Alapag. Players and coaches continue to improve, which only raises the level of competition throughout the region. I think Asian teams have also shown they can compete against the best in the world.”