source: Paul Mata | InterAKTV
Chris Tiu is still waiting for the call telling him that he’s once again part of the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national basketball program.
“Sa ngayon, wala pa. I heard that they are forming a new program. I don’t know. Wala pa akong kontrata doon,” he said last week. For now, Tiu is concentrating on his business interests as well as his fledgling television career. His new game show on TV5, Toink! Sino Ang Tama?, co-hosted by Alex Gonzaga, premiered this past weekend.
“I’ve expressed my interest to join but of course it will depend on the coaching staff and the management if they still want my services. I’m just waiting for what’s going to happen.”
“I spoke to [Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manuel V. Pangilinan]. He knows that I’m interested to join. But of course, it will depend on him and the coaching staff.”
Tiu’s contract with SMART-Gilas expired last October, along with those of most of his teammates. All other SMART-Gilas players who saw action in the FIBA-Asia Championship last September who were eligible to enter the PBA were drafted in the first round last year, leaving Tiu the only holdout.
The former Ateneo skipper said he had no regrets about his decision, even as his former teammates have made an instant impact in the league. Top pick JVee Casio and fourth overall selection Marcio Lassiter, in particular, helped transform the previously moribund Powerade Tigers into a contender, making a memorable Cinderella run to the finals in the recently-concluded Philippine Cup.
Tiu’s younger brother Charles, a former SMART-Gilas assistant, is also part of the Tigers coaching staff.
“Of course there is always that feeling, ‘I could have been playing there,’” said Chris. “It’s fun to watch them. There’s that feeling na sana andun din ako.”
“Well, I had to make a decision on what I really wanted to do. And I’m choosing to stick to the national team, exclusively for the national team. I’m happy for them.”
But Tiu could not hide his disappointment over the decision of SMART-Gilas management not to retain Serbian coach Rajko Toroman, who steered the team to a fourth-place finish in the FIBA Asia tilt. Like the national players, Toroman’s contract expired last year, and he wasn’t given a new offer by the program’s management.
“Sayang lang for me kasi. Everyone knows what he has done for Philippine basketball. He brought us to another level. The public has really appreciated what he has done for us. They saw the results. And they saw that we performed,” said Tiu.
“He’s just really a big loss for the national team. I’m sure the management knows best. I’m sure they will find the best coach to run the show.”
Tiu, who was known to be close to Toroman, isn’t ruling out the possibility of playing for the coach again. Toroman recently signed a contract to serve as a consultant for the basketball program of San Miguel Corporation, which bankrolls PBA teams B-MEG, Barangay Ginebra, and Petron Blaze as well as the San Miguel Beermen squad in the ABL.
“Who knows? If I don’t play for the national team, I might end up playing under him. It’s hard to say for now.”
Ateneo vs La Salle
Because he isn’t part of the PBA, Tiu was not part of the lineup in the recent charity exhibition game between Ateneo and La Salle alumni in the league.
“Sayang, I wasn’t invited,” he laughed. Chris was captain of the Ateneo team that won the UAAP Season 71 title.
“It would have been fun to play. Feeling ko pa naman na they needed help especially sa guard position,” he said, while admitting that he’s not yet in game shape. Tiu last played competitive basketball in November, as part of the Philippine team that won the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games.
“My style of play pa naman is I like to penetrate and create for my teammates, drive and dish or drive and drop. Maybe that could’ve have helped because the offense was kind of stagnant.”
Tiu said that exhibition matches don’t really do favors for Ateneo and coach Norman Black, who thrive on running structured offenses.
“In coach Norman’s system, they play well within the system. In games like this, hindi talaga strength ng Ateneo talaga.”