(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Still smarting from the Philippines’ failure to advance beyond the eliminations in the FIBA-Asia Championships in Tokushima last July, national basketball coach Chot Reyes said yesterday the fall only strengthens his resolve to restore the country’s reputation as an Asian power.

“I still haven’t gotten over it,” said Reyes, referring to the end of the Philippines’ Olympic dream. “The feeling doesn’t leave you quietly. That’s why I appreciate getting a break from coaching.”

But Reyes is convinced the way is clear for a resurgence.

“We started a three-year program in 2005, supposed to culminate in 2008, in time for the Beijing Olympics,” he said. “The US did something similar. We used the pool system and so with the US. The difference was we got suspended and our progress was derailed.”

Reyes pointed out that after the US collapsed to sixth place at the 2002 World Championships and took the bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics, there was a concerted effort to bring back American supremacy in basketball. Mike Krzyzewski was hired to pilot the US squad in 2005 up to 2008, the first long-term commitment ever made to a coach in American basketball history.

Although the US bagged only the bronze at the World Championships in Saitama last year, Krzyzewski’s team lost just once and bounced back to sweep the recent FIBA-Americas Championships in Las Vegas.

“You notice a lot of changes in the way the US now plays,” said Reyes. “Roles are now clearly defined. They’re learning how to defend the pick-and-roll. They didn’t use to like to switch before. Now, they’re looking for it. They’re using different kinds of defenses, not just going one-on-one. It took time for the US to adjust to the international game. And if it took time for the US, what more us?”

Reyes predicted the US will capture the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. “That’s where the program is headed,” he said. “If we only didn’t get suspended, maybe we would’ve done better in Tokushima. Remember, we played in the Group of Death or the Group of Champions with China, Iran and Jordan. China was the defending Asian champion and we beat them twice. Iran eventually won the championship and got the Olympic ticket. Jordan won the last Jones Cup title. We were in the toughest group of the tournament. But against Iran, we were down by just one with about a minute to go and lost because of a technical foul.”

After failing to qualify for the quarterfinals, the Philippines swept its next four assignments to finish ninth with a 5-2 overall record.

Reyes said the national team is now inactive with the players back to their mother clubs in the PBA.

“We remain committed to our national program but we’re in a standstill at the moment,” he said. “I think an indication of the commitment is the adoption of several FIBA rules in the PBA this season. The next FIBA-Asia tournament is the 2009 qualifiers for the 2010 World Championships. So by the end of next year, we should be regrouping our pool. Then there will be the 2011 qualifiers for the 2012 London Olympics. We’re on the right track as far as our national program is concerned.”

Reyes said next week, he’ll team with Eric Altamirano and Fritz Gaston in conducting a three-day coaching clinic in Cebu for the Samahang Basketbol Ng Pilipinas. Some 60 to 100 coaches are expected to attend the first leg of a nationwide tour that will include stops in Iloilo, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Naga and San Fernando.

Pacman, foes do their ‘homework’ By Abac Cordero Monday, October 22, 2007

(STAR) Manny Pacquiao is in no hurry choosing his next opponent, saying the decision might come in December when he’s done with his studies and a new movie he’s about to make.

Pacquiao said he’s enjoying himself in his hometown Gen. Santos City, two weeks after he forced Marco Antonio Barrera to hang up his gloves following a big win in Las Vegas.

Pacquiao answered the bell for his first day of class last Wednesday at the Notre Dame of Gen. Santos City where he is pursuing a course in business management.

“It feels good but I was nervous on my first day. It’s different from boxing because when I climb the ring, I’m the boss. Here in school, the professor is the boss,” he reported yesterday.

Classes begin at 8 a.m. and last until 5 p.m. This goes on until November when Pacquiao takes a break to start filming a new movie, and launch his own reality show on TV.

Pacquiao plans to make his next move by December, probably after his 29th birthday on the 17th, and the Christmas holidays.

“It (next fight) only becomes final when I sign the contract,” he added.

Eight boxers from two different weight divisions are lining up for a shot at Pacquiao, a million dollar purse by March and probably the first big fight of 2008.

From the super-featherweight class (130 lbs) are WBC champion Juan Manuel Marquez and his Nov. 3 challenger Rocky Juarez, WBA king Edwin Valero, WBO titlist Joan Guzman and rising star Humberto Soto.

And from the lightweight class (135 lbs), calling out Pacquiao’s name are WBC champion David Diaz, WBO-WBA-IBF defender Juan Diaz and Ring champion Joel Casamayor.

While Marquez battles Juarez in two weeks, Guzman is all set to climb the ring against Soto on Nov. 17, and Valero will defend his title, and his reputation as an early-knockout artist against Juan Carlos Salgado on Dec. 15.

David Diaz has nothing up yet since beating Erik Morales last August while Juan Diaz just recently won over Julio Diaz. Casamayor fights Jose Armando Sta. Cruz, a Pacquiao sparring mate, on Nov. 10.

These fights could help Pacquiao choose his next opponent. But as the candidates slug it out, the Filipino superstar is just doing his homework, preparing for his next day in school.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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