Monday, April 19, 2010

Smart Gilas in Serbia 2010 & My Thoughts on Serbian Basketball

I think we've had enough of the MVP speech controversy. His resignation is irrevocable and this will surely hurt Ateneo in many ways. But what has to be done, has to be done. Even if MVP himself had no intention to plagiarize, apparently his speech writers screwed up and he had to suffer and take the blame himself. It's just so honorable how he never pointed a finger but rather accepted full responsibility. Let's just learn from our mistakes and move on. Issue closed.

On Smart Gilas Serbian stint:

Despite our 1-5 win loss record in Serbia, I believe we had a very valuable trip. The teams we played there are of a different competitive level as compared to the Asian teams we will be playing. We played 5 1st division teams and 1 2nd division team which will be elevated to 1st division next year. THat's the team we beat. We played the best team in Serbia, Partizan, but without their best 5 or 6 players. We also played the 2nd best team, Hemofarm, with several national team members including 7'4 Marjanovic.

I can see an improvement in the team's competitive level as compared to a year ago when we first went to Serbia. We played Metalac (probably top 5 team in Serbia) both times. In our first trip last year, we lost by 31 pts and this year we lost by 10 pts. Last year, I remember how stunned and shocked we were playing against guys who are like a foot taller than us. Their wingmen, the guys i was guarding, are like 6'6 or 6'7 on the average. This year, even if they probably didn't get shorter, we didn't feel that 'small' and inferior compared to them. I guess we've gotten accustomed to being at a size disadvantage against foreign opponents both in Europe and Asia. And it will always be that way for us Filipino unless Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter start breeding w/ Serbian women soon.


But despite the height disadvantage on the wing position, i think what's more important is that we must be able to match up well when it comes to the big men, meaning positions 4 and 5 (power forward & center) because that's where size really matters. The big men must be able to consistently stop the post players, block/change shots, and grab those rebounds. Unlike in the US & PBA style of play, a size disadvantage in the wing position would most likely lead to the bigger wing player posting up his smaller opponent. But that wasn't the case in Serbia & in most FIBA style games as well. They continued to run their plays so systematically with so much discipline, occasionally utilizing mismatches. THeir execution was just so impressive both offensively and defensively.

When we played Hemofarm in the city of Vsac about 1.5 hours east of Belgrade, I was so impressed with their starting point guard Markovic, who stands at 6'6 . Despite being only 21 years old and so skilled, he was diving all over the court for loose balls and aggressively pressuring our point guards. Remember, this was only an exhibition game and their team was up by 20+ points. Oh FYI, he is a member of the Serbian national team. That's the kind of attitude they have towards the game of basketball!


I tried to chat briefly w/ some Serbian opponents during 'deadball' situations, and what surprised me was that most of them were only about 19 to 24 years old only. They obviously didn't look it but they certainly mature much earlier tactically in basketball than we Filipinos do. I guess it comes with the number of high level games that they play all year round inside and outside of their country. Many of them turn pro as early as 16 or 17 years old. We have some players here in the Philippines who are still playing in the UAAP or NCAA at 24 or 25 years old, the maximum cut off age.


Dusko Vujosevic, head coach of Partizan, is now considered one of the best basketball coaches in Europe. He has led his very young and underpaid Partizan squad to the Final 4 of the Euroleague, defeating Maccabi Tel Aviv in the quarterfinals. I wanted to get a photo w/ him after our tune-up game vs Partizan but he couldn't be found afterwards. Now what makes Serbian coaches so unique and successful??

While doing therapy, I got to chat w/ a Serbian pro-player, who played college ball in the US NCAA then played in Serbia afterwards. He told stories of how his Serbian coach would send them to the mountains in the freezing cold weather to do their fitness training. In the morning, they were required to wake up at the same time and jog up and down the hills. Naps were to be taken at the same time strictly from 2 to 4pm. At that time, no one is allowed out of their room. THen training again afterwards. Their coach will have a duplicate of the room keys and would make random spot checks to see if everybody is in their rooms and if their refrigerator contains forbidden food/drinks. All meals, breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner, were to be taken together at the dining hall. No one starts eating until the team is complete. Now that's team spirit! And this is a professional team, not high school or college! YOu won't see that very often w/ American or other foreign coaches.

Training sessions are very rigid. Because they are less scientific when it comes to physical conditioning, sometimes they forget that your bodies need to rest and recover. They are so tough mentally that they keep pushing you to the max in every practice and drill. Work, work, work! That kind of attitude will surely give you results on the court, but it may also shorten ones basketball career by a few years. While i was listening to all these stories, i could totally relate w/ our very own experience w/ Coach Rajko except maybe for the random room checks. Apparently, almost all Serbian coaches work that way.


We didn't have much free time while in Belgrade because of our training and games schedule everyday. Morning is for practice and weights, at night we have games. We got Good Friday and Easter Sunday off but all commercial centers were closed. Luckily we found a Church to do Stations of the Cross and attend Easter mass as a team :) Even Coach Rajko stayed w/ us throughout the whole trip, only leaving the hotel for his medical check up. Instead, he asked his family to come over and visit him in the hotel. Now that's dedication! I haven't seen him w/ such a big smile upon seeing his 2 year old grandson Djorjo. How we wish Djorjo can always be present during practices and games!

Here are some photos you might want to look at :


Anonymous said...


Erine said...

Wow.. Serbian coaches really got some great doses of hardcore discipline.. ( PArang militar.. nyii....)

I also wondered why there are old guys ,(24-25 age) playing in the UAAP.. You just answered my question.. hahaha

Well, I guess what the Serbian players dont have in common to the Pinoy players is that they value victory so much they almost forget to play basketball with their hearts..Dyan tayo sapat.. hindi nga lang sa height...

Greg and japeth for serbian women?? why not??


erica said...


now were talking serious basketball training! no offense to our serbian friends but its like dictatorship/communism inside & outside the court. they are playing as one, with all their loyalty not only to their personal strengths, im guessing also to their country and respective teams as well.

if i remember my history lessons correctly, their cousins-the slavs of russia used to train themselves in the harshest weather conditions in the mountain ranges to prepare themselves for battle. so im guessing, this is where they derived their discipline.

i know the smart-gilas pilipinas team doesn't practice such strict training, but i am confident that the coaching staff will try to cater these learnings and cater it to the Filipino mentality.

i am very proud of what the team has become. all of you guys developed physically and mentally! you have transcended from Ateneo's team captain to a more mature & motivated international basketball player. now you are playing with the hot shots of other collegiate teams, participating in competitions here and outside the continent and still manages to pursue national interest not only through basketball but though other advocacies.

thank you very much for this blog entry. now we have a sneak preview on how you guys train and play against the big teams, how you react and interact with them and vice-versa. atleast the basketball fans both critics and supporters would better understand the way coach toroman handles the team.

go SMART GILAS TEAM PILIPINAS! keep on making us proud :)


PS: i hope you guys won't adapt the almost-no-rest policy. you tend to tire yourself also! so just hang on and remember the 3Ps: Practice, Pause (for regain strength) and Pray :)

crazypeach said...

Wow, thanks for sharing your moments in Serbia. I never really thought that they had the best basketball system in the world until you replied to me about it from your twitter account. I didn't even know anything about Serbia until Smart Gilas went there last year, and when you shared your experiences that time.

You mentioned about them training in the cold...which do you think is more advantageous to a players in a very cold atmosphere or in a very hot atmosphere? Just curious if there would be a difference.

"...unless Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter start breeding w/ Serbian women soon. " --> This line of yours is funny. Hihi!

Thanks also for sharing pictures! makes me want to go there too!

Wishing you luck on your next training in the US and YVR! God bless to everyone in the team!

Anonymous said...

The Serbian players' training regimen reminds me of Baki the Grappler hehe. Team Pilipinas FTW!

Anonymous said...

hi there!!
i was glad you had spared a little time to went out for a while. It was nice hearing your stories again. take care always!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris! This is not related to your blog entry but I'm just curious about how much time you spend writing a story in your blog. coz you seem to be very, very busy yet you still have time to share and inspire us.. esp. me. :>

Anonymous said...

Great stuff!

Just like in any worthy pursuit, its imperative to go out and see the world. To 'spar' against teams from other regions on a regular basis is the way to learn to be competitive playing wise and coach/tactics wise.

Cheers from down under....

My Blogspot About Sports said...

Mr.Tiu, I like your blog 'cause you look like TOTALLY SERIOUS about offensive & defensive. Wish you and.. the Gilas Team to go to the super extra miles to the top. I'm so proud to our filipino players. ITAAS ANG BANDILA NG PINAS!!!! GO GILAS GO GILAS GO GO GO GILAS!!!!!

jonx said...

thanks chris for always sharing SG's trip experiences abroad..not only the experiences but your personal viewpoints as one of your fans i now have an idea how a serbian basketball looked and felt like..(very rigid,very disciplined yet very strict..)

1-5 record was not bad at all considering a lot of improvements you and the team had showed for the past 1 year..from 30+ pts deficit to 10..that's impressive!

what's more important is you were able to apply what you have learned sa mga tune up games nyo abroad s whole system ng the adjustment of playing w/o a naturalized player and dealing the issue of "height disadvantage"..the way i see it..

"your playing heart will compensate your lack of height!"

i'll be praying for a fruitful trip in the US,canada for the entire SG squad!i hope all your injured players will recuperate soon!especially jvee!(=

Anonymous said...

Nice blog Chris!
This should inspire other basketball players to go out there and be the best. Dedication and commitment is the key to success. I hope the Filipinos would learn that too, since the PBA is now weakening.

Sabria said...

Such an informative blog. Thanks, Chris.

I am amazed at how coaching/training styles can be so different yet so effective. I just hope though that you wouldn't "suffer" the same fate as the Serbian players did.

Keep it up! It doesn't matter if you don't win all the games, or any game at that. What's important is you've learned and gained more experience, which is what you would really need come Olympics, God-willing you make it there.

Don't tire yourself too much, Chris. Find time to rest and unwind. After all, that's what you guys deserve.

Oh by the way, I'd have to commend you and Rhian for a job well done in last Saturday's Pinoy Records episode. CHRIAN?! Haha. No offense to Sheena, but I really think you and Rhian have better chemistry together on-screen as hosts.

Keep safe!

Anonymous said...

hey chris! just wondering, since the upcoming election is less than a month away, i would like to know your view on picking the best presidential candidate.. good luck in everything and more power to you!

Anonymous said...

wow. i really admire the tough discipline of the serbians. i heard the iranian national team players are all military recruits, so they must have been use to rigid training military style. if you combine playing with heart and tough training, you'll get excellent results. how i wish smart gilas will have more scrimmages in europe especially other euroleague teams. in fact not just smart gilas but our local clubs as well. providing international exposure to pba teams will greatly impove philippine basketball and boost our competitiveness on an international level

Anonymous said...

wow. i really admire the tough discipline of the serbians. i heard the iranian national team players are all military recruits, so they must have been use to rigid training military style. if you combine playing with heart and tough training, you'll get excellent results. how i wish smart gilas will have more scrimmages in europe especially other euroleague teams. in fact not just smart gilas but our local clubs as well. providing international exposure to pba teams will greatly impove philippine basketball and boost our competitiveness on an international level

Anonymous said...

Hi! Magpaparticipate ba ang Smart Gilas/Philippine Team sa 2014 Asian Games sa Incheon, Korea?

Chin said...

i don't really have a broad range of knowledge regarding basketball, all i know are those basic stunts and rules but despite it i think that in order for a team to be great, plenty of practice and training is needed and never forget to believe in yourself, your dreams and to the One above ..

one day, that very fateful day, the Smart Gilas team and the rest of Philippine basketball team will emerge as one of the topmost players not only on Asia but all over the world (that will not be very difficult to accomplish, right ?) ..

Godbless Chris and continue to be an inspiration !

"...unless Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter start breeding w/ Serbian women soon. " -> you had a good sense of humor,this makes me smile .. : )

bjoy said...

nice shots^^

Anonymous said...


zolie from l.a.