PH's 1978 FIBA WC team makes appearance in 2023 WC opener

The 1978 Philippine team to the FIBA World Cup. Tessa Jazmines
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--Some members of the Philippine team in the 1978 FIBA World Cup will be in attendance as the 2023 edition of the global basketball event opens shop on Friday night at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue.

The 2023 FIBA World Cup local organizing committee confirmed on Thursday night that Ramon Cruz, Padim Israel, Steve Watson, Pol Herrera, Marty Tierra, Rico Acuna, and assistant coach Nemie Villegas will grace the opening game between the national team's current incarnation, Gilas Pilipinas, and the Dominican Republic.

The Philippines first hosted the FIBA World Cup in 1978 with the said people alongside Alex Clarino, Bokyo Lauchengco, Joy Carpio, Greg Gozum, Nathaniel Castillo, Edward Merced, Cesar Teodoro, and head coach Nic Jorge tasked to defend their home court at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The all-amateur Philippine team, which missed some big names after already jumping to the PBA, failed to win a single game.

At that time, leagues that classified themselves as professional were not allowed to send their players to FIBA-sanctioned events.

However, due to a home team incentive in which they got a free pass to the quarterfinals, the Philippine team finished eighth.

Some members of the 1978 Philippine team like Israel, Herrera, and Watson would carve stellar careers in the PBA during the 80s and the early 90s.

Jorge, on the other hand, became known for founding the Milo BEST Center, one of the pioneering basketball clinics in the Philippines that jumpstarted the careers of present stars.

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