We are very grateful and lucky to have Coach Rajko. There is no question that the new 'system' he has introduced to Philippine basketball has been effective both offensively and defensively, and it suits the international game. Of course, nobody is perfect but Coach Rajko is an extremely clever guy. Respected national coaches from other teams would go up to me and tell me how lucky we are to have Rajko as our coach. And more than the X and O's that he has taught us, for me, his biggest contribution is the non-negotiable values that he instills upon the team. "Work as hard and as HONEST as you can!" Those are his famous words. Even if he seldom smiles, I suppose this is the reason why he is so loved by the Filipino fans. It's tough to be a coach, there are many other 'experts' especially when you lose a game. But I cannot forget what he told us, "Even if I will be digging my own grave, I will continue to do what I believe is the right thing to do!" That's why we players have utmost respect for the guy.
What got me more emotional after the Korea game was when Coach started saying goodbye to the team and to the Philippines in the locker room. I remember in our first team building session 2 years ago, we played a game where each team member has to give one chip to just one person he trusts the most in the team. Many of us gave our chips to Coach Rajko. Coach Rajko gave me his chip. I cannot forget that. And now I feel like I've let him down.
For bringing Philippine basketball to another level, we must give utmost appreciation to Coach Rajko. And we have to admit, sometimes he is even 'more Filipino' than some of us through his sacrifice and dedication towards the improvement of Philippine basketball. At this moment, his status is uncertain but he already has bigger offers internationally and he will not have problems finding another job. That's for sure. Wherever he goes next, I wish him well. I think what he needs to do is to rest and take care of his health first and foremost.
ALL IN GOD'S PLAN
Throughout the tournament, I prayed the rosary every night. I've been reading a book of homilies (I'll talk about it in another entry). I spoke to God more than I usually do because I have more idle time when I'm abroad, which should not be the case though. We should make an effort to pray and talk to God as much as we can despite our busy schedules. After the loss, again I prayed for answers.
I remember what Jimmy (Alapag) told me after the game when I was feeling bad, "Making it to the final 4 is a huge step already. We cannot just expect to win the Gold overnight. It's a step by step process."
Then I thought about they way we lost to Korea, it was an unreal game! Like a divine hand had something to do with it. God is telling us something. Despite being unlucky in the last two games, He showed us throughout the tournament that we are very competitive with all the teams who participated, including the top teams that finished ahead of us. I believe it is His way of telling us that "you are a good team, but it is not your time yet. You must first fine tune and resolve all your divisions and differences! " God is a good God and He has a purpose for everything. It just wasn't meant to be yet.
I'm very very thankful to be given this rare opportunity to represent the country for the past 2+ years! It's truly a big big honor! It's both fun and painful but all worth it!
I'd also like to honor my teammates who have sacrificed tremendously for the country and poured their hearts out during the games, whether or not there's a lot at stake. It's been so much fun playing with some of the best players in the country, not to mention great guys as well. It's sad that we will have to part ways after years of practicing, traveling & competing in tough games together but I know they will make wonders for their respective teams in the PBA and I wish them all the best!
I believe in destiny, but for now, making it to the London Olympics wasn't meant to be. Sooner or later, I strongly believe that the Philippines will regain its top spot in Asian basketball. We saw how close we are. We just got to keep working towards that goal, together! I hope I will still be actively playing when that happens. But for now, life must go on and we have to keep getting better. 2013 is not so far away.
Once again, a super big THANK YOU to all of you for your unwavering love and support for the team!! You certainly keep us inspired! GO PILIPINAS! :)
P.S. After the heartbreaking loss to Korea, I bumped into Coach Baldwin of Jordan in the hotel lobby. He gave me a big hug and he said such simple yet wonderful words that hit the spot and I'd like to share it to you guys because it can be applied to all. He said "This is just the first of many more tougher games you will experience in life. Just remember to be the best player that you can be. More importantly, be the best person that you can be. Hold on to those two things and you will be fine."