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Fil-Nation Select hopes NBTC success leads to progress

The people behind Fil-Nation Select are hopeful their recent success in the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) and Manila Live tournaments will lead athletic teams and collegiate programs in the Philippines to believe they can further enhance the sports culture in the country.

“If they want to get to the level of what it is in the United States, Philippine programs simply need to change their mindset and limiting beliefs,” said Executive Director Rodel Lizan in an exclusive interview with All-Star Magazine.

Fil-Am Nation’s top-rated squad – composed of their best Filipino-American talents – won the NBTC National Finals by prevailing in a down-the-wire match against UAAP high school champion Adamson, which gave the visiting team all it could handle. Meanwhile, Fil-Canada Nation won the Manila Live 19U championship after defeating another Fil-Am Nation squad in the finals.

Spearheaded by the scoring heroics of national team standout and San Diego State (NCAA D1) recruit Naomi Panganiban, the Fil-Am Nation women’s team made it to the championship round of the Manila Live Girls 19U tournament before falling to NUNS.

Overall, Fil-Nation Select sent 28 teams and 300 players to compete. Many of them had the desire to showcase their abilities to watching eyes in the recruitment game.

“Winning NBTC should lead to more recruitment of these players. They are proven winners, and coaches want that in their programs,” Lizan stated.

He admitted there are pundits who say the only reason Fil-Am Nation triumphed in the national finals was because of their NCAA D1 caliber talent, particularly Terrence Hill and Caelum Harris, who are now being coveted by athletic programs both in the United States and the Philippines.

It helped to have notable standouts Jacob Bayla and Andy Gemao as well, but success wouldn’t be guaranteed without contributions from role players.

“If you look at the stats, you had great performances out of Hunter Marumoto and Dylan Victorio, who no one is recruiting. Not one coach,” said Lizan.

He believes the experience local players gain from playing against international opponents in NBTC will enhance their overall game. Lizan remarked that the former NU Bullpups under Goldwin Monteverde, who would become UAAP champions in the seniors’ level, faced off against NBA up-and-comer Jalen Green when he was in Manila for NBTC in 2018.

“Right now, NBTC is the only grassroots development for the Philippines. It has international and local prospects and provides an Olympic-type atmosphere,” Lizan complimented the league.

He feels one of the limiting beliefs holding teams in the Philippines back is their preference for big men, but argues it’s essential for these taller talents to play with Fil-foreign guards due to the comfort level they have with each other both on and off the court.

Guard play, especially against full-court pressure defense, is essential to success in college basketball, and Lizan believes these Fil-Foreigners from abroad are ready to carry that responsibility, despite recent years showing they require an adjustment period to the physicality in this country’s style of play.

Another limiting belief is conversation among circles that Fil-Nation Select is a business model that exists to monetize off their athletes’ abilities, and because of that, they seek recruiters with deep pockets.

Lizan rejects that claim.

He admitted they are athlete managers who negotiate deals like other sports agencies and independent agents in the Philippines. Lizan said transparency is prominent during discussions between their organization, prospective teams, and the players, whose desires and goals are the ones prioritized.

“We have kids in the national teams, kids in Enderun College, Lyceum, and programs in every level,” Lizan added.

“If we have a relationship, money is not going to prevent a kid from playing basketball. At the end of the day, it’s for the athlete. We do a lot for the programs – dealing with the paperwork, eligibility, and educating families. We’re an extension of the coaching staff. We help bridge the culture gap between players and programs.”

Lizan confirmed that they do full-service and year-round consultation in passport services for Fil-Foreign players who require citizenship to play in the Philippines.

Their impact in recruitment has yielded success. Fil-Nation Select was responsible for bridging the gap with the University of the Philippines during the recruitment of Zavier Lucero, a UAAP men’s basketball Mythical Team awardee and an essential piece in the Fighting Maroons’ ending a 36-year championship drought in Season 84.

They have furthermore brought in the likes of Henry Galinato, Kyle Paranada, Luis Villegas, Zain Mahmood, and soon enough, maybe Jacob Bayla.

“We do an incredible job just guiding a lot of athletes, not just in basketball, but volleyball, too,” claimed Cris Gopez, the co-founder of Fil-Nation Select.

Those players are Steven Rotte, Michael Vicente, Ryan Ka, and Cyrus De Guzman in the men’s team, plus Brooke Van Sickle for Petro Gazz in the PVL.

“We’re here to protect the athlete in a way where it doesn’t scare them off to want to leave after one year,” Gopez said. “We’re here to help change the game and more importantly, the level of the playing field.”

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