On Gilas Pilipinas return, a different SEA Games for Standhardinger
Christian Standhardinger’s looming stint with Gilas Pilipinas is a homecoming of sorts for the Barangay Ginebra star who barged into the Philippine basketball lore by playing for the national basketball team.
But the do-it-all forward prefers not to get caught up with nostalgia. He knows what lies ahead, after all.
“It’s nice to have a certain circle close, but there’s a lot of pressure. We need to get the gold medal,” he said after a training session before leaving with the team to Cambodia.
“To say I miss the feeling of wearing the jersey wouldn’t be a good way to describe it all because you know, it comes with so much responsibility. I need to really make sure that I give my absolute best for Gilas and this nation.”
This Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gig in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, will be Standhardinger’s third gig with the national team in the regional meet. But this one would be different in the sense that he will be tasked to reclaim the Philippines’ throne instead of defending it.
“It’s not like it’s fun, but more like a responsibility. It’s like ‘OK, you better sit down and focus and do your absolute best,’” he pointed out. “It doesn’t come with fun, but urgency.”
And the SEA Games field will certainly look a whole lot different than the last time he was around.
Eligibility rules were relaxed by organizers, with naturalized players now only needing to show they have the passport of the country they are representing to be able to see action in the SEA Games.
The host country has certainly taken advantage.
Cambodia sounded off its intentions when it beat the Philippines for the 3×3 gold on a team built on Americans Darrin Dorsey, Brandon Peterson and Sayeed Pridgett. The fourth member of the Cambodia national squad, local baller Tep Chhorath, did not see action in the team’s 21-15 victory over the Philippines in the final.
Cambodia is in the Filipinos’ group for the men’s basketball competitions and the American trio is expected to also suit up for the contest.But for now, the focus of Gilas Pilipinas is squarely on its opening match against Malaysia at Morodok Techo National Stadium set at 1 p.m. (2 p.m. Manila time).
The last time the two nations met in the biennial showcase saw Gilas running away with 43-point triumph, and the Filipinos are shooting for no less than an encore with battle-hardened veterans and skilled amateurs at their disposal.
Among those weapons is Chris Newsome, a two-way guard from the Meralco Bolts who is looking to win a different kind of gold medal after plucking one from the 3×3 competition four years ago.
“This is the one that really everyone takes pride in—the 5×5. It’s an honor to be able to put on the jersey, but it’s even more of an honor if you get to win,” said Newsome.
“There might be a little bit of pressure, but a lot of guys here are kind of used to it when you talk about competing at a high level. We’ve all played in championship games before, in high-pressure situations,” he added.
Gilas is reportedly dealing with logistical hiccups in Phnom Penh, but its brain trust is not making a mountain out of a molehill. National coach Chot Reyes was quoted saying that every other team in the tournament will be dealing with the same hurdles anyway.
The Philippines will need to finish in the top two of its group to advance to the crossover semifinals. Singapore is the other team in the Filipinos’ group.