Serbian coach who belittled Gilas Pilipinas no longer thinks squad lacks quality

China's Serbian coach Aleksandar Djrodjevic

FILE–China’s Serbian coach Aleksandar Djrodjevic. -FIBA BASKETBALL

Aleksandar Djrodjevic, the Serbian national coach who said Gilas Pilipinas was “missing quality” during the 2019 Fiba World Cup, now has nothing but admiration for the latest edition of the National Five.

“It’s a long time ago,” he said of his comments about the Yeng Guiao-coached squad that went home empty-handed and finished 32nd—dead-last—in the showcase held in Foshan, China.

Djrodjevic, who now calls the shots for the Chinese national team, feels that this Gilas squad led by Jordan Clarkson is now a team to be reckoned with.

“This Philippine team is a team to respect,” he said. “(The federation) built [an] athletic team. They’re putting some size, with rotation of the bigs.”

“And also, with Clarkson, they have that needed talent with the ball that can resolve any kind of situation or an or any kind of, let’s say, tight games,” he added.

Djrodjevic’s incendiary comments about Gilas may have been made in the heat of the moment.

“What happened [was] our philosophy, my philosophy [is] every next game is the most important game of our lives,” he said.

China, like the Philippines, is one of the six Asian teams jockeying for the lone continental ticket to the Paris Olympic Games next year.

The two nations could cross paths in either the second phase of the tournament or in the classification round.

A former pro who suited up for the Portland Trail Blazers during the ’90s, Djrodjevic said he’ll have that same competitive outlook should such a scenario ever become a reality.

“That’s how we will address [things] if it comes towards playing a game with the Philippines. We don’t know that right now,” he said. “We’ll think about it once it comes and if that time comes.

China is slotted in Group B with Serbia, South Sudan and Puerto Rico. The Chinese will open their bid against Djrodjevic’s compatriots at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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