Chris Gavina

Chris Gavina Excited for ‘Extremely Bright Future for Philippine Basketball’

Coaching a trio of young Fil-American ballers has gotten Chris Gavina all fired up for the next generation.

A familiar face was pacing along the sidelines Tuesday during the Super 32 NBTC National Finals game between Fil-Nation Select and St. Roberts International College of Iloilo.

Former PBA coach Chris Gavina, most recently seen coaching a pro team in Taiwan, is calling the shots for Fil-Nation Select, a collection of some of the most talented Filipino-American teenage ballers. Although it’s just a one-week stint, Gavina considers himself fortunate to be coaching some very talented youngsters.

“I don’t know how (Fil-Nation Select founder) Alex Cabagnot convinced me to coach these young gentlemen, but I’m honored that I am because this is a bunch of fine, highly-skilled individuals,” Gavina told The GAME shortly after his team beat SRIC 72-65 to move to Division 1 of the weeklong tournament. “Hopefully they can come together and we can come out and finally win an NBTC championship.”

Fil-Nation Select has been a regular fixture at the NBTC, and has brought over the likes of Jalen Green, Sean Alter, and Jason Mandaquit, but has never won the title. Last season, they lost to National University-Nazareth School in the championship game.

This year, the squad is returning former Gilas Youth stalwarts Caelum Harris and Jacob Bayla, along with phenom Andy Gemao. Coaching the trio has convinced Gavina that Philippine basketball is in good hands.

“Extremely bright future for Philippine basketball,” he said. “Hopefully we can get these guys into the Gilas program. Obviously Andy, Jacob, Caelum have all gone through that process already. I hope they can get integrated somehow into the seniors program already because I feel they can contribute.

“I mean, look at the length and athleticism of Caelum. He’s 6’6”, he can play multiple positions. Jacob, same situation. And Andy is a revelation for me. This is the first time that I’ve seen him, and he doesn’t move like somebody who’s just 16 or 17 years old. He has playing experience that seems above his age group right now. It’s great to see that we have an extremely bright future in Philippine basketball.”

Andy Gemao has proven to be a revelation for coach Chris Gavina. (NBTC)

Despite their loaded lineup, SRIC-Iloilo gave them all they could handle, especially in the first half. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Fil-Nation got some separation and got the game away.

“When you’re young, sometimes all you can focus on is ‘me,’” Gavina said. “It’s all about playing time, and obviously everyone wants to play. Everyone wants to prove themselves. I know a lot of parents spent money coming out here, but at the end of the day, nobody gets noticed if you lose. It’s my position as a coach to make those difficult decisions, and I’m the type of person that, you’re gonna get your time and what you do with it is up to you. If you give us positive results, that may just extend your playing time on the floor and increase my level of trust in you.

“Iloilo is a great, competitive team. I loved it. I keep telling these guys, mindset-wise, there’s no layoff teams here. Every team has won a championship in their region. So nobody’s gonna come out and lay down to us. They’re gonna fight for every inch, and you gotta commend their coaches for inspiring them for that.

“And for us, I’m pretty certain that we’ll start playing the more established, high-profile programs. NU, Adamson, Mapua. That’s just a challenge for us moving forward.”

As for Gavina, this stint is another chapter in his growing coaching résumé. A former head coach of the Terrafirma Dyip and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the PBA, he became the first coach of Filipino descent to handle a professional team in Taiwan. After the season ended, he kept busy by attending various coaching clinics in the United States.

“I took a hiatus, I took a vacation back in the States. I was just going to a lot of coaching clinics, visited several universities out there just to refresh myself. I went to the University of Miami, talked to the Final Four coach Jim Larranaga. Just really trying to hone my skills as a coach. Now I’m getting ready to coach a new team in Taiwan, a new tournament.”

And if all goes well in the next few days, he’ll be able to add an NBTC championship to his credentials.

Banner images from Chris Gavina on Facebook.

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