Meet the Asia Cup 2022 Teams: Philippines
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - Wherever there is basketball being played, having the Philippines mixed up in the competition always seems to add a bit more excitement. We’ll get to see if that’s the case with Asia Cup 2022, as Gilas are back in search for their first title in 37 years.
Let’s take a quick moment to meet the Philippines in this "Meet the Teams" series!
World Rank according to FIBA World Ranking Presented by Nike: 34
The Philippines have held on tightly to their spot in the Rankings among Asia & Oceania teams at 6th while trying to catch up (and ideally overtake) Korea at some point.
They’ve taken a slight dip down from the 31st spot in the Ranking where they started at the beginning of the Asia Cup Qualifiers, but a strong performance in Jakarta should nudge them back in the right direction.
Asia Cup Debut: 1960
How many national teams can say that not only did they play in the first ever Asia Cup, but also host the first ever Asia Cup? That’s a trick question, the obvious answer is only one and that’s the Philippines.
A better question would be to ask how many national teams were able to host and win their debut Asia Cup? The answer is still only the Philippines (though Australia are the second team to ever win in their Asia Cup debut).
Asia Cup Appearances (including 2022): 28
The Philippines have played in all but only two Asia Cups. Because of their absence in 2005, the streak of consecutive Asia Cup appearances for Gilas now stands at 7.
Don’t expect the streak to end anytime soon, either.
Most Recent Appearance: 2017
The Philippines were coming off two straight Asia Cup Final appearance heading into 2017. Confidence was high and so was the level of talent up and down the roster.
Gilas started the tournament with a bang, exacting revenge in an Asia Cup 2015 Final rematch against China before ending the Group Phase undefeated.
However, when the Quarter-Finals started, the Philippines suffered from their so-called “Korean Curse” and took a 118-86 beating to Korea. This put an end to what felt like might have been another possible run to the Semi-Finals. Instead, the Philippines ended up at 7th place following a loss to Lebanon and a win over Jordan.
Best Position in Final Standings: Champions (1960, 1963, 1967, 1973, 1985)
The Philippines have the second most amount of Asia Cup titles with 5 in total. By winning the first two Asia Cups, they remain only one of three national teams to be able to do so. The early days were glorious, as the Philippines finished no lower than third place in the first seven Asia Cups.
Since 1973, the Philippines have only been able to win the Asia Cup once. They’ve come pretty close to reaching the promised land once again in 2013 and 2015, but that sixth Asia Cup has still been a bit out of reach.
Notable Player(s): Jimmy Alapag & Gabe Norwood
As a result of being basketball-crazed nation, the Philippines have a rich basketball history. So while there are a lot of notable names that are associated with Philippines basketball in the Asia Cup, two names that have had the biggest impact are Alapag and Norwood.
Jimmy “The Mighty Mouse” Alapag played in three Asia Cups and he’ll forever be known as the one who knocked down “The Shot” in the Semi-Finals of Asia Cup 2013. When you knock down a late-game three-pointer that more or less clinched a win over the national team’s historically most frustrating opponents to secure a World Cup berth for the first time in 36 years, you will receive that level of recognition.
"As soon as I got that space, it was a shot that I had practiced thousands of times. As soon as I got the space, I let it go. If you watch the video, I hold my follow-through for as long as I've ever held in my life, just to really be sure the ball would go in, and it fell through," said Alapag in an interview with FIBA Asia Cup.
"The funny thing was when I let that shot go, the one thought that came to my mind was 'don't miss'."
Of course, Alapag is more than just the guy that hit “The Shot”. He’s always been a leader for Gilas, whether it was on the court as a player or roaming the sidelines as a part of the coaching team.
Just as important as Alapag was to Philippines basketball for making that three-pointer against Korea, Gabe Norwood was just as important for getting “The Block” a few plays later to stop Korea’s attempt at a comeback. Defense might not be the sexiest spectacle on the court, but Norwood has always been able to make it look cool.
Norwood has played in five Asia Cups for the Philippines. This accounts for a total of 40 games while scoring a total of 230 points. Similar to Alapag, Norwood is “big brother” presence in the national team setting whether he is a part of the 12-player roster or not.
How they got here:
The Philippines went through the Asia Cup Qualifiers undefeated, but that seems like simplifying how impressive they were.
Aside from easily handling Indonesia and Thailand, Gilas were able to take down an experienced Korea national team twice in the span of a few days. The Philippines played in each window of Asia Cup Qualifiers with a squad that was focused on building for the future and with the way that they played, it seems that the future has been well constructed.
Current Outlook: Getting back on track
After those impressive wins against Korea (as well as the positive performances at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament), the Philippines have had some undesirable results.
Losing to New Zealand in the February Window of the World Cup Qualifiers at home wasn’t ideal, and neither was being handed a defeat by Indonesia at the Southeast Asian Games. Both the Tall Blacks and Timnas are quality teams, but expectations for were high for Gilas after seeing their play in 2021.
The situation is far from panic-mode for the Philippines, so their fans won’t have to lose any sleep. However, they still need to figure out how to get back to where they were last year.