It was reported last week that Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin would also handle the SEABA and SEA Games squads, which would be composed of Gilas cadets. In 2013, the cadet team, also known as Sinag, defended their SEA Games title by claiming another gold medal. JP Manahan sat down with Kevin Alas, Garvo Lanete, Jake Pascual, Mac Belo and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser to talk about the experience in an article that originally came out in SLAM PH 175
At the 27th Southeast Asian Games in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar last December, Sinag Pilipinas won the gold medal in men’s basketball. SLAM Philippines asked Sinag players Kevin Alas, Garvo Lanete, Jake Pascual, Mac Belo and Matt Rosser to share their story and relive the experience of representing the Philippines in the SEA Games.
SLAM PH: How were you told about your participation? Since you were part of the Gilas cadet pool, did you expect to be a part of this campaign?
Kevin: I was told about my participation months before the actual schedule of the competition. This has been a childhood dream for me to play for the country. I worked and am still working hard to be a good player, so yes; there was an expectation from me to be part of the Sinag Team. I had even foregone my intention to be drafted in the PBA, as I really wanted to play in the national team and I’m very happy with my decision.
Jake: Yes, it was in the plan.
Garvo: Yup. Dati pa lang kasi sinabihan na kami na kami (Kevin, Jake, Ronald, Matt and Marcus) mag-represent sa SEA Games.
Mac: SBP (Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas) texted me to join Sinag Pilipinas for the 2013 SEA Games.
Matt: Being part of the Cadet Pool, I was told in advance that I and the other cadets would be in the line-up.
SLAM PH: How was the first practice with the team? What were your first impressions?
Kevin: The first practice went pretty well. Our coach and the entire coaching staff welcomed us with open arms. I know most of the players as I have played with them while I was still in the NCAA and the PBA D-League. It was an easy transition. The excitement was always there, especially since I was actually playing for our country.
Jake: I was excited to team up with these guys, a bunch of talented guys.
Garvo: First practice ay light lang muna, no scrimmage. Usap-usap about sa UAAP/NCAA. Biru-biruan.
Mac: Mixed emotions. Andun yung kaba and excitement ‘nung unang practice kasi first time kong makakasama sa iisang team ang mga star players ng NCAA at UAAP schools and most of all, nandun pa si Marcus Douthit.
Matt: We did a lot of learning in the first couple of practices. It was challenging but a lot of fun getting to know and learn from Coach Jong Uichico’s system.
SLAM PH: How was training? Were scrimmage games tough? (Sinag played against UAAP teams Ateneo and La Salle, as well as PBA D-League teams Café France, M-Builders and Cebuana Lhullier as part of their preparations)
Kevin: The scrimmages were tougher. I guess as all of us had the same excitement plus the fact that everyone wanted to prove that we were worthy to be part of the Gilas team. The practice got tougher and tougher as the date of the competition got nearer.
Jake: Scrimmages were very competitive.
Garvo: Nag-scrimmage na kami, na-amoy ko na magiging competitive kasi lahat gusto magpakita. And we were fighting for the spots. Kahit kami mga cadets na, hindi pa din assured na naka-line-up na.
Mac: Nung first week ng practice kapaan pa kasi first time naming magkasama-sama. But then ‘nung tumagal-tagal na, nagkaroon na ng chemistry among us and na-develop na yung teamwork at good companionship inside and outside the court.
Matt: The scrimmages were really competitive. It was fun to play against and with some of the best amateur players in the country.
SLAM PH: How was the trip to Myanmar? How was it at the athlete’s village? What was the atmosphere?
Kevin: The trip was a breeze. Although it was a long trip, it gave us more time to really bond as a team. We actually stayed in a hotel and it was an interesting visit as it was my first time to be in Myanmar.
Jake: We stayed at the hotel, not at the athlete’s village. But it was fun.
Garvo: Nakakapagod yung trip kasi we had two stop-overs – Singapore and Yangon. Hindi kami sa athletes’ village nakatira. Naka-hiwalay yung basketball. Sa hotel kami. But we went sa village din. It was great to see other athletes, kasi I can see the sacrifice.
Mac: Sobrang pagod kasi whole day talaga yung trip namin going to Myanmar. About the hotel naman, maganda at okay rin yung food and they accommodated us well. Yung atmosphere naman doon was quiet and peaceful.
Matt: The trip was extremely successful. We treated the trip like a business trip. Our goal was to get the gold. But outside of the basketball part of it, Myanmar is a really beautiful country. Nice and cool climate with a lot of really nice people. The whole country made us feel really welcomed.
SLAM PH: It was in Myanmar that the coaching staff announced that Prince Caperal was replaced by Roi Sumang. Roi had been initially placed as an alternate by Chot Reyes due to an injury. How did it go down? How did Prince handle it?
Kevin: In reference to Prince being replaced by Roi, it did not affect the team as a whole. In fairness to Prince, he took it objectively.
Jake: I think Prince already knew before we went to Myanmar that he was in the reserve list.
Garvo: Okay naman si Prince. Tinanggap naman niya ng maayos and bata pa si Prince kaya makakalaro pa ng dalawang SEA Games siguro yun. Mabait din kasi and tahimik lang.
Mac: Okay naman kay Prince. He accepted about it ng maayos and magkakasama naman kaming lahat dun palagi.
SLAM PH: In our opening game against Singapore we beat them, 88-75, in a surprisingly close game. What happened?
Kevin (DNP): It was a tough win, although I was down with fever. That was the reason why I wasn’t able to play. Coach Jong constantly reminded the team not to be complacent and stay focused on our goal to win.
Jake (2 points and 4 rebounds vs Singapore): It was a tough game, but we controlled the game at the end of the third quarter going to the fourth. And Coach Jong said to us that we must relax and play our game.
Garvo (6 points vs Singapore): Yeah nabigla kami. Ang laki din ng inimprove nila. Ganda ng nilalaro nila while kami di maka-shoot and di maka-defend. They took advantage kaya hanggang fourth quarter dikit yung laban. Then, di kami agad naka-adjust sa refs so ang daming may foul trouble. But in the end, we played with composure.
Mac (16 points 10 rebounds 1 assist and 1 steal vs Singapore): Basta we kept playing lang and always tried to do the right thing inside the court. Eventually, naka-adjust rin kami agad sa second half.
Matt (9 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists vs Singapore): During that game we started off really rusty. But we stuck with our system and we knew eventually we would be able to pull away. We were playing for our country so we knew that we had to play our hardest!
SLAM PH: The next couple of days were blowouts (won over Cambodia by 50, won over Myanmar by 75 and beat Thailand by 32). What were the coaches and teammates telling you during those three games?
Kevin (6 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal vs Thailand): Again, there was the constant reminder from Coach Jong not to be complacent.
Jake (15 points, 10 rebounds vs Thailand): The coaches kept on saying para sa bayan, to play for our country. Against Thailand, it was a physical game.
Garvo (10 points vs Myanmar): Well, pinanood namin yung video against Singapore. Sama talaga ng nilaro namin. Di kami maka laterals. So in the next game we focused on defense first. Ayun, we defended well kaya nakakalayo kami.
Mac (17 points 6 rebounds 2 assists vs Cambodia): They were always saying na play well at ipakita rin sa kalaban kung anong basketball meron ang Pilipinas.
Matt (7 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 3 blocks vs Cambodia): We wanted to make sure that we played hard but also respected our opponents. We went into every game with the same mindset: play hard defense and play together.
SLAM PH: Were there any changes when we played against Indonesia (31-point victory by Sinag)?
Kevin (8 points, 2 assists vs Indonesia): Regardless who we were playing against, the coaching staff kept on reminding us to play tough and to stick to the game plan.
Garvo (3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal vs Indonesia): Wala naman masyado, yung mga key players lang nila kailangan ma-shut down. Maganda naman dinepensa namin.
Mac (9 points 5 rebounds 3 steals vs Indonesia): Walang changes actually. Thailand and Indonesia, sila yung ini-expect namin na malakas sa liga kaya never talaga kaming nag-relax.
Matt (8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals vs Indonesia): We went into those games the same way too. We wanted to play hard defense and play together on offense. We knew that Thailand and Indonesia matched up good with us so we had to make sure we were focused.
SLAM PH: How did you guys feel when Thailand beat Malaysia, 73-69, to guarantee the gold medal for the Philippines:
Jake: Yes, we watched the game. Thailand played different compared on how they played against us.
Garvo: We watched the first half. Hindi naman namin masyado inisip yun. Kasi the goal also was to sweep yung SEA Games. Para mas maganda and para di kami maging overconfident.
SLAM PH: Knowing that the gold medal was already guaranteed, what were coaches and teammates saying before the final game against Malaysia?
Kevin: Admittedly, we were happy to know that the gold has been guaranteed for us, but that did not stop us from giving our best effort in our last game.
Jake: To not be complacent and get the gold. To get the job done.
Garvo: Yun nga sabi ng coaches is kailangan manalo pa rin talaga. Nakakahiya din pag natalo sa Malaysia.
Mac: Kailangan din naming gawin yung part o tungkulin namin. Pinaghandaan rin namin sila. We prepared well although we already knew na gold medalists na kami. Hindi pa rin kami nag-relax nung mga panahon na ‘yun.
Matt: Our goal was to get the gold, but to us if we didn’t win all the games, it wouldn’t really feel like we were the champions. To bring pride to our country, we wanted to finish the tournament with a win.
SLAM PH: As the clock ticked down to zero in an 84-56 win over Malaysia, what crossed through your minds?
Kevin (13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists vs Malaysia): The feeling was overwhelming. I was very happy that we achieved a goal and I am very proud to be wearing the Philippine Jersey.
Jake (8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists vs Malaysia): Proud to be Pinoy. Especially that it was my second time to get a gold medal with the Gilas Cadets
Garvo (6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist vs Malaysia): We’re still the kings of the SEA Games!
Mac (4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists vs Malaysia): Sobrang saya ko ‘nun. First time kong mag-champion tapos sa SEA Games pa.
Matt (2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist vs Malaysia): I was just so happy to accomplish another goal. I just felt really proud to represent the Philippines and to win another gold medal.
SLAM PH: What do you remember most about the awarding ceremonies?
Kevin: It was an experience that I will never forget in my basketball career
Jake: I was very honored to receive the award.
Garvo: I was happy and proud that we got the gold medal. Para sa bayan din natin yun and sa Yolanda victims.
Mac: I felt honored and blessed kasi we received gold medals.
Matt: Again, I felt so proud. It was a great sight to see our flag raised and to hear our national anthem.
SLAM PH: What will you remember most about the team?
Kevin: My teammates were instrumental in our victory. Everyone played well as a team. Kudos to Coach Jong and the entire coaching staff for the motivation which prompted all of us to give our best shot.
Garvo: Well, una sa teammates ko masaya ako dahil may mga bago na naman akong naging kaibigan. Hindi sila mahirap pakisamahan. Sa coaches naman, they are very good coaches, very professional. Madami kaming natutunan sa kanila on and off the court.
Mac: Sobrang thankful ako sa teammates ko. I learned a lot from them. They are all nice, kind, sobrang hardworking and we all have respect for one another. Sa mga coaches ko, sobrang thankful rin ako na sila ang nakasama ko. They are all very professional, mabait at ang gagaling rin nila.
Matt: I enjoyed playing with all my teammates. They are now good friends of mine. As for the coaches, I learned so much from every one of them. With each coach focusing on a specific part of the game, they were all able to give so much insight.
SLAM PH: What did you learn from the experience?
Kevin: The experience taught me that hard work and sacrifice ultimately lets you achieve your dreams. Again, it has been my childhood dream to play for the country. To be part of a champion team made it even sweeter.
Jake: It was a good experience playing with these players and especially competing with other nations.
Garvo: I learned how to sacrifice for the country, both on and off the court.
Mac: Yung samahan namin doon na sobrang saya, na sa kahit konting panahon lang na nagkasama kami nagkaroon na ng maganda at masayang samahan.
Matt: The thing I learned most was to always respect your opponent. Even if we won by a good amount each game, we never focused too much on the score. We focused on just playing good and representing the Philippines.