Bittersweet: PBA exit opens Gilas door for three Bolts
Meralco standouts Chris Newsome, Raymond Almazan and Allein Maliksi grappled with a bittersweet moment on Wednesday night.
There was a deep Philippine Cup campaign that came to an early close on one end. The other, meanwhile, dangled a chance to represent the Philippines on the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) stage and join Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson in a pilot crew that will help the country determine its roster for the World Cup here a little over a year from now.
“I can now kind of look forward to that,” Newsome told reporters after a 100-89 Game 7 loss at the hands of the mighty San Miguel Beer as the gallant Bolts were shown the door in the Final Four. “I’m excited to finally wear that jersey for 5-on-5. Hopefully, I can make that final roster.
“I think it’ll be a great experience for me, a great experience for a lot of the guys that’s never donned the uniform.”
“It’s the same feeling like when you’re first called up,” said Almazan, a member of the Gilas Pilipinas squad that saw action in the last World Cup held in China.
Last pros awaited
The three players are the last pros expected to join the ongoing Gilas camp geared for the two key Fiba games against Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
And each one is looking at the opportunity through a different lens.
For Newsome, who was just recently cleared by Fiba to play as a local, it’s a chance to honor his Filipino lineage.
“I take the utmost honor and respect whenever it comes to serving our country because I think about my lola, my lolo—the ones that came before me,” he said.
“They didn’t have much, we came from humble beginnings. Now, we’re finally able to have a basketball player represent the country. I think that’s a great honor to them,” he added.
For Maliksi, it’s an opportunity to make up for what he thought was a forgettable first run with the national team.
“During my first stint, I don’t know, I think I was not that ready. I was just trying to fit in with the guys who were already there, playing for Gilas for a while,” he said. “For me, [this] is a second chance to contribute.”
Almazan, for his part, is looking at the call up as a means to further boost his self-confidence.
“Just being included in the pool is already a source of proud. It should already make one proud of himself. Not everyone is given that chance,” the Bolts center said.
Meanwhile, Gilas is now down to just waiting for one more player as Kai Sotto arrived in the country on Thursday evening.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ Sonny Barrios told the Inquirer that the young 7-foot-3 center will be joining the Nationals’ buildup by Friday.
That leaves Clarkson, the recently anointed program cornerstone, as the final piece for the preparations for the matches against the Cedars in Beirut, Lebanon, on Aug. 25 and then the Saudis here on Aug. 29.