Why this American sports journalist is rooting for Gilas

Posted at 08/18/14 10:32 AM

SANTA MONICA - He may be American-born and raised but ESPN sportswriter Rafe Bartholomew is Filipino at heart.

The former Manila resident, who chronicled the basketball craze in the Philippines in the book "Pacific Rims", recently followed the Philippine National team during their Miami training camp.

"They were doing twice a day practices, working really hard. Really committed. Everyone seems to be really buying into the mission of Gilas Pilipinas. Laban Pilipinas puso," Bartholomew said.

While Gilas had a tough tournament that ended with a 50-point loss to Ukraine over the weekend, Bartholomew believes the team has a chance to make an impact in this month's FIBA World Cup in Spain.

"I think the goal that Gilas has set is to make it past the first-round. To do that they have to win two games in their group which will be a challenge. They'll face tough teams -- Croatia, Argentina, Greece but at the same time they know that they're going to have advantages over other teams and they're going to try to exploit their speed creativity of the Filipino game. Sana papasok sila sa second round," he said.

While the Philippines awaits to see how Gilas will fare, Bartholomew says this year is an exciting NBA season with several Filipinos inching closer to making NBA rosters.

"If Jordan Clarkson and all indications are he's going to be on the Lakers' roster this year, he'll the first American player with Filipino heritage since Raymond Townsend in the 1970s to play in the NBA. And there's no way playing in a place here like Los Angeles, the biggest Filipino community in Southern California, that people are not going to embrace him and watch him succeed," Bartholomew said.

Gilas returned to Spain to continue preparing for the World Cup which begins on August 30.