AS the players stepped off the team bus for the last time in the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship Sunday night, a few withdrawal symptoms began to surface.
Marc Pingris, in fact, began to wax nostalgic. All of a sudden, in his mind, it was a Gilas Pilipinas practice again—the end of one, at least. Players huddle at centercourt and then, on a predetermined count, shout: “Puso! (Heart!)”
“That’s the one thing I’ll miss the most,” said Pingris.
All of a sudden, it’s over. After 11 whirlwind days of electric crowds, magical runs and inspiring triumphs, the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship is over. Gilas Pilipinas, the team bonded by a mission and fueled by the will of millions who shared that dream, is packing its bags for the meantime.
“It felt like it happened so quickly,” said naturalized center Marcus Douthit.
For some, the realization that there will be no more waking up in the same hotel and hauling bags to the bus for the drive to Mall of Asia Arena hit a little bit harder.
“Kung ako ang tatanungin mo, ayaw ko pa matapos yung pagsasama namin kasi kakaiba yung samahan na binuo namin lalung-lalo na nung ipinaglaban natin itong bansa natin at itong watawat natin (If you ask me, I wouldn’t want this bond to end just yet because we formed something special, especially when we were fighting for flag and country),” said forward Ranidel de Ocampo.
“It’s going to be tough,” said swingman Gabe Norwood. “To achieve such a big accomplishment and all of a sudden, you’re no longer together.”
Gilas Pilipinas won the silver medal in the tournament, but more importantly, with a dramatic semifinal victory over perennial tormentor South Korea, the team booked a slot to the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain.
“We’re part of history,” said guard LA Tenorio. “Tumanda man kami, magkaroon ng mga apo, hanggang sa bago kami mamatay, hindi namin makakalimutan ang bawa’t isa (We may grow old, have grandchildren but even until before we die, we will never forget each other).”
“This team is very special,” he added. “Nagusap-usap nga kami na sana maging isang team na lang kami sa PBA (We even talked about being one team in the PBA).”
It’s going to be hard for the team to say goodbye to the support that it received during its run to the world stage.
“Mami-miss mo talaga yung ganung suporta (You’re really going to miss that kind of support),” said Tenorio, despite the fact that he quarterbacks Barangay Ginebra, the league’s most popular team.
And the players hope that the people never forget what they accomplished.
“Sana tumatak na kami sa isip at puso ng mga Pilipino na sa isang sandali sa 2013, nakilala tayo sa buong Asia at nakapasok tayo sa world basketball (I hope that it will be etched in the minds and hearts of every Filipino that for one moment in 2013, we were known in all of Asia and we made it to world basketball),” said De Ocampo.