After absence, Tenorio savors new chance with Gilas Pilipinas

MANILA, Philippines – Guard LA Tenorio could not be with his brothers in Gilas Pilipinas last year, when the national team went to battle at the FIBA Asia Championship in China. 

But now, Tenorio, 31, is back with the Gilas pool, relishing a fresh opportunity to play for flag and country once more.

“Actually I missed what I didn’t experience last year and coach Tab (Baldwin) knows that, I really missed the national team and this kind of practice, the intensity and everything. I told him that,” Tenorio said in a mix of Filipino and English, right after post-practice stretching and cool-down.  

“That’s why I’m very thankful I was given the chance to prove that I still belong in this team.” 

Tenorio pulled out of last year’s FIBA Asia pool owing to health concerns and need for rest after consecutive national team stints since 2012. The backlash was almost automatic at the time, but nowadays Tenorio is a viable option for head coach Tab Baldwin in his final Gilas 12.

“Hopefully with God’s blessing, I hope all the way I can be with them,” he said. “If this is my last Gilas – hopefully not – but I hope I could play also and play in front of our home crowd. And playing the best of the best in the world. Last time I was in the worlds it was outside of the Philippines.” 

The Barangay Ginebra playmaker brings to the table a wealth of international experience from his days in the 2012 Jones Cup where he was Finals MVP in a gold medal finish, to orchestrating the offense for Gilas 2.0’s historic stint at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. 

Though at 5-foot-8, pundits and fans can easily count him out when considering the international playing field of taller guards. But Tenorio is a seasoned veteran who understands that competing for a spot is not a concern. 

“I don’t see it as competition. For me, my opinion. I’m not here to get any spot in the guard position, I know the capabilities of all the guards here,” he explained. “Anybody you lineup is good. They’re really deserving. To be honest, it’s hard getting that spot.”

He knows as well that his role extends to mentoring the younger cadets, and sharing his wisdom. 

“For me I’m here to help the young ones, based on my experiences, not only in Asia but I also played in the worlds. I can impart that experience to the younger ones who will play. Whoever is going to be in the lineup, for sure it’s going to be competitive and talented.” 

Gilas Pilipinas is currently preparing for the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament slated for July 5 to 10 here, with the winner qualifying for the Rio Olympics basketball tournament in August. –