There was a familiar face inside the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, Wednesday night, as Rajko Toroman, the former head coach of the Philippine national team, was there to witness the double-header.
According to Toroman, he's in the Philippines because of an invitation from Mighty Sports to take over the squad in preparation for their stint in the upcoming William Jones Cup in Taiwan. As erstwhile head coach Charles Tiu is currently traveling with the Gilas Pilipinas Youth squad that will be competing in the 2019 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup from June 29 to July 7, Mighty Sports' management saw it fit to welcome Toroman into the fold.
The 2019 Jones Cup is scheduled to take place on July 12 to 21, which will only give Tiu a few days to be with the team after Gilas Pilipinas Youth gets back from Greece.
While watching the game between NorthPort Batang Pier and Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters, Toroman sat beside Mark Barroca, who was one of his players for Smart-Gilas.
"I'm so proud of what Mark has accomplished in the PBA and in the national team," said Toroman. "As I've said before, he is one of my favorite players because he is a hard worker. When we invited him to join the national team before, he was in a bad spot with FEU and I think he was really thankful with the opportunity that we gave him so took advantage of the opportunity."
Aside from Barroca, two other Gilas originals are still part of the pool in Marcio Lassiter and Japeth Aguilar.
"Marcio is one of few players in the PBA who can be successful in Europe," said Toroman. "He has good size, shoots well, and plays really good defense. I'm not sure why he did not join the national team as much in the past few years but I'm not surprised that he is still involved," said the 64-year old tactician.
"As for Japeth, I don't think he truly realized the potential we thought he'd reach but he can still be an important player for Gilas. He's not the type who'd score 20 points every game but he can still contribute."
After his stint with Smart-Gilas, Toroman coached the Petron Blaze Boosters and Barako Bull Energy in the PBA before leaving the Philippines in 2013. He was named the national team head coach of Jordan. Now he's heading back to the Southeast Asia Region as the lead tactician of Indonesia.
"I'm proud to say that I was a part of three national team programs that will be competing in the 2019 (FIBA Basketball) World Cup in the Philippines, Iran, and Jordan," said Toroman. "I may not be the one who sent them there but I'm happy I became a small part of their programs."
As for his new challenge, Toroman knows that Indonesian basketball has a long way to go but he's excited for the opportunity. The Southeast Asian country will be one of three co-hosts, along with the Philippines and Japan, of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, although their qualification is not a done deal just yet.
"I've signed with Indonesia to be their head coach for the next two years and if I can somehow help them make it in 2023, then I might be the only coach who has helped with four different countries who made it into the World Cup."