MANILA, May 10, 2005 
(STAR) THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco - Now that everybody is on the same side about the formation of the Philippine basketball team to the SEABA, it is disconcerting to know that the BAP players from the team formerly funded by Cebuana Lhuillier have not been able to make their way to practice at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center at the Ateneo de Manila.

"Itís a pity the other guys arenít here," said a disappointed Chot Reyes, who had to reinforce the original group of PBL players in the national aspirantsí pool for their first practice last Friday night. "Weíve invited Dennis Madrid, BJ Manalo, Jeff Bombeo, KG Canaleta and Samigue Eman to join this pool."

The players were very distraught when informed of the pawnshop chainís decision to pull out of sponsoring the BAP team that had been practicing for more than a year. Many of the players were actually living in the practice facility in Las Pinas, since they were frequently practicing twice a day. Some are from the provinces and have no relatives in Metro Manila. Still, the show must go on.

"Our first priority is getting everybody on the same page," Reyes admitted. "When we say "sag spot" or "clog zone", we want to be speaking the same language. Thatís why weíre starting with the very basics. All these players come from different coaches, so weíre making sure we understand the same terms. Secondly, we want to make sure that the players can play with each other."

Despite the very short deadline (the SEABA tournament in Singapore begins June 20), Reyes is still positive the team will be ready.

"We feel the engagement and the effort the players are putting in will make up for the lack of quantitative time that we have to prepare. The next step is to get them to play with the national training team A (the PBA pool), so that we can make a core of the team that is probably a mixture of both."

This writer joked Reyes about when he would move into Moro Lorenzo, since he is practically there the whole day now. From the RP team A to the national aspirantsí pool to meetings and video research with his coaching staff, Reyes doesnít really have that much time to do much else. His attention is now on bringing the amateur pool up to speed with the pros.

"We love this place. Iíll move in when they get me a nice room with a nice bed," Reyes laughed. "But this is the only place that provides us with six baskets, so that even if we have a big group, like 20 or 30 players, we can still get a lot done."

Reyes is not necessarily looking for the most talented players, but those who can adapt, are athletic and unselfish. Once the line-up is fixed, the team will need to compensate for any unforeseeable challenges, such as injuries and illnesses.

"Weíre looking for players who are versatile, and weíre placing a premium on quickness," Reyes explains. "Thatís why, during our practices, you always hear the coaches say "Run out! Run out!" We want to be running all the time, not walking up the ball."

The former Coca-Cola mentor also said that the greater challenge now is on the coaches to hasten the development of skills and chemistry among the players. Last Friday, he was drilling the players by groups, noticeably with players who are already teammates in the same groups. It was intense, but gratifying to see the PBL players going at it. The practice even went overtime, as urgency in getting information and familiarity took precedence.

Reyes has not yet spoken up on who will probably coach the SEABA team, and the BAP has not given a final word on whether or not they still want Boycie Zamar to remain as head coach. It has been an extremely emotional time for the squad as a whole. Point guards Madrid and Manalo each got married in the last two months, and must consider their employment options. Richie Melencio has just come off a major injury. Others tasted life in Metro Manila for the first time, and are supporting families in the provinces. Understandably, they have a lot on their minds, but not much time to decide on a course of action. Their grieving must be cut short, and they must decide whether or not they still want to be part of the national team, while the door is still open.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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