MANILA, JUNE 30, 2007
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - National coach Chot Reyes said the other day he has suggested to Samahang Basketbol Ng Pilipinas officials contracting Serbian basketball guru Vlade Jarkovic to assist the Philippine team bidding for an Olympic berth at the FIBA-Asia championships in Tokushima on July 28-Aug. 5.

Jarkovic was recommended by FIBA referee instructor Alan Richardson to coordinate the national squad’s recent six-game series in Belgrade.

Richardson, who was in Manila last April for clinics on the PBA’s invitation, arranged the games against top clubs from Serbia and Montenegro.

“I’ve submitted Vlade’s name to the SBP,” said Reyes. “He told me he’ll be available to work with us in July. Vlade was great with the guys in Belgrade. He knew when to yell at them and when to pat them on the back for a job well done. He’ll be a big help to us as a consultant if it can be worked out.”

At the moment, Reyes is backstopped by assistants Nash Racela and Aboy Castro. Coca-Cola coach Binky Favis joined the staff last Monday. Former national coaches Joseph Uichico, Tim Cone and Norman Black begged off from working with the team because of other commitments.

Reyes said the Belgrade trip was an eye-opener as he saw for himself why Serbia and Montenegro, now two separate entities after splitting from what was once a unified Yugoslavia, are considered basketball hotbeds.

“There are about 90 Serbian coaches all over Europe, about 100 Serbian players in the US NCAA and about 15 in the NBA,” said Reyes. “We even have a Serbian (La Salle’s Marko Batricevic) in our UAAP. Serbia has a basketball coaching academy where you can earn a certificate after two years. Vlade, for instance, has an economics degree and a coaching certificate. There is one unified basketball system in Serbia, starting the kids with the fundamentals at an early age and as they get older, they’re exposed to the same development approach. It’s all about skills training.”

Reyes said Montenegro, which has a population of only 800,000, is coming on strong as a basketball powerhouse with a national under-20 team powered by two seven-footers.

“We learned a lot in Belgrade and we can still learn a lot more from the Serbs as we try to become comfortable with the international game which is very different from the way basketball is played in the NBA or the PBA,” said Reyes.

In six Belgrade games, the Philippines won twice. Reyes said the standouts were Asi Taulava, Ranidel de Ocampo, Mick Pennisi, Jay-Jay Helterbrand, Mark Caguioa and Gabe Norwood.

Taulava dominated late in the series as he began to reap the benefits of a conditioning program that has brought down his weight from a high of 295 pounds to 264. Reyes said trainer Dennis Aenlle’s three-part daily program is broken down into lifting weights early in the morning, court drills late in the morning and more court drills late in the afternoon to early evening.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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