Play a game of word association, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone in the Philippines who doesn’t link “Gilas” and “puso” together. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Batang Gilas, Gilas Cadets, the men’s team, heck even the women’s team, the word “puso” or “heart” is the secret sauce, the glue that binds everything together. 

The problem is, #PUSO has evolved beyond just a rallying cry. Through the past few international hoops tournaments, it’s inexplicably become a measurable requirement from the players, or a skill, like passing or rebounding.

This is unfortunate, because there’s more to Philippine basketball than just #PUSO.

#PUSO is such a difficult thing to compute for. It’s an intangible after all. It’s not like PER, USG% or any other statistic out there that we can easily identify those who have it and those who don’t. And yet, that doesn’t stop Filipinos from making such judgments, never mind its utter subjectiveness.

Calvin Abueva was the topic of discussion recently when the Final 12 of Gilas was announced.

Calvin Abueva was the topic of discussion recently when the Final 12 of Gilas was announced.

This player has more #PUSO than this other player! He should have been the one chosen for the National Team!

Why choose this player? Wala naman siyang macocontribute na maganda para sa programa eh! Dapat itong isang player na lang! Mas may #PUSO siya maglaro!

How exactly can we say that a player has more #PUSO than another player? Are we capable of actually comparing the size of the hearts of each player? Is there a certain statistic that has been created when it has come to determining the size of the heart of a player?

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that statistics should be the end-all when it comes to analyzing basketball. Intangibles matter as well. But the problem is, we lean on too much to these intangibles.

Maybe it’s because we as Filipinos are so used to being the underdogs. Since we’re not as athletic, as big or as skilled as other players from other countries, we choose to lean on something that cannot be measured. We want to go into tournaments filled to the brim with something we believe we have in spades, easily outnumbering what the other side has.

We, therefore, lean on #PUSO.

If you ask me, that’s just a lazy thing to lean on. There’s so much more to our basketball players than having #PUSO.

Case in point, the epitome of the #PUSO card. Jimmy Alapag.

The epitome of #PUSO. // Google Images

Jimmy Alapag stands at roughly 5’9″. He’s the Mighty Mouse. The unquestioned captain of Gilas Pilipinas. The man who ended the Curse of Korea. The reason for that? Well, for most fans, it’s because of #PUSO. In reality? There’s more to Jimmy than just the intangibles that he brings.

For one, his range is something else. Having that kind of shooting ability wasn’t produced because he had heart. Jimmy had to work on it. Countless hours of practice in the gym, fixing the minute details of his shot. How his stroke should look like. Where the release point should be. How he should position himself every time he shoots. Those are the things which Jimmy had to take note of before he became what he was today.

Other than his shooting, his sneaky good ball-handling ability is something that made Jimmy Alapag such a great player. His playmaking ability is such an underrated skill as well. And we’re just scratching the surface. The point is, there’s so much more to a guy like Jimmy Alapag than just “heart.”

The same goes for other players and teams. The Batang Gilas U16-U17 team that qualified in the FIBA World Cup 2014 tournament held in the UAE. Ranidel De Ocampo, Marc Pingris, and many more. Other than heart, these players or teams have skills which make them so valuable on the international stage.

Filipinos are skilled basketball players. Filipinos aren’t all heart. There’s plenty of unorthodox skills there too, gleaned from hours of play on sunbaked, makeshift courts. Just imagine what can happen if their abilities were properly honed and developed. Madness, right? And yet, not really.

Our shooting is developing. We have unparalleled speed and quickness. Most importantly, we’re the most hoops-loving country in Asia, perhaps in the world, and our knowledge of the game just keeps on growing, and that’s exactly what we need to make it big once more on the international basketball scene. It’s what’s going to make us eventually reach our dream of making the Olympics.

There’s more to Philippine Basketball than just #PUSO. It’s a vital part of how we play, for sure, because no one wants to watch robots on the court. But there are plenty more things that go into getting better and excelling on the international stage. Ultimately, it’ll be up to us if we want to take that next step towards greatness.

#PUSO helps. But it’s not the only thing that helps.