FOSHAN, China -- Most people would probably say that the success of a basketball team depends on how well the players perform. But there are people behind the scenes who are just as important as any player or coach.
For Gilas, those duties fall on the shoulders of Yvette Ruiz, Dexter Aseron and Bong Tulabot. These are the people who keep things in check, organize the team's itinerary for the day, get the players in the best condition, and carry their bags and equipment.
Ruiz, who has been with Gilas since the beginning, is the liaison officer who keeps everyone in line. She's the motor that makes Gilas run when the curtains are closed.
The day before they left for China, Ruiz gathered the players and coaching staff for several reminders, telling them what things to bring and what not to forget before passing out their passports and other documents which had been organized ahead of time.
Players from different iterations of the Gilas program share a special bond with Ruiz because of how much she cares for them. So it's no wonder they call her "mom."
"She keeps the team together, emotionally. She helps with everything logistically. People don't realize how much preparation it takes for Gilas to operate and fly to venues. She does a splendid job," said team manager Gabby Cui. "She makes sure that all the players are taken care of. It's hard for the players to be far away from their loved ones. So she makes sure that there's a 'mother's touch' [when we're away]."
And she is the fixer.
"When there's a misunderstanding among us, she's the one who steps in," said Mark Barroca.
"We don't function too well (when she's not around)," Gabe Norwood said. "She keeps everything under control. She's kind of that peacemaker. When we're having trouble or having problems, we run to Mom Yvette."
Aseron, meanwhile, is the one-man training staff whose main responsibility is to keep Gilas players healthy and in the proper condition.
"Dex takes care of us physically and gets us in the best shape that we can," Norwood said. "It's tough with the schedule, you can't run us down too much. But he does a great job of kind of monitoring what we should and shouldn't do physically."
Aseron's importance to the team was never more apparent than when June Mar Fajardo injured his ankle in the loss to Italy. During practice the next day, Aseron attended to Fajardo and worked his magic on the injured right ankle, and fitted the Gilas big man with a brace.
"He makes sure that everyone is healthy and in great shape, especially when there are injuries. Like in the case of June Mar, he made sure that he can play. And he was able to play against Serbia," said Cui. "Dexter is huge for us."
And then there's Gilas' all-around utility guy, the famous Kuya Bong.
If there's dirty clothes that need washing, Kuya Bong will take care of it. If there are ankles that need taping, he's the guy you go to. If you need to lighten the mood during practice or on the team bus, he's always got a joke in his back pocket. Whatever the team needs, Kuya Bong is there to provide it.
"Bong T is the life of the party. He keeps us relaxed, but at the same time he does everything. He does what most teams have three guys doing," Norwood said.
"He's a one-man wrecking crew utility guy. Tapes, transports all the shoes, makes sure all of our stuff are clean, the luggage, and also moral support," Cui said.
There have been many Gilas teams assembled, but it's these three unsung heroes -- Ruiz, Tulabot and Aseron -- who are responsible for making the team function as one unit off the court.
Usually, when Gilas wins, all praises go to the players. Winning, though, is probably the best reward they can give to the people who are, as Cui put it, the "wind beneath their wings."
"When we win, it's not only for us, but also for them and their families. For all the sacrifices that they make for the team, when we win, it will hopefully also make them happy," said Barroca.