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MANILA, Philippines – Kevin Quiambao is not getting caught up in the hoopla of reported interest from the New York Knicks and the UAE national team as he turns his unadulterated attention to Gilas Pilipinas.
Fresh from an impressive stint with Strong Group Athletics in the Dubai Basketball International Championship, the La Salle star cracked the 12-man lineup of national team head coach Tim Cone as the only collegiate player.
“Those are not the things I want to talk about because they’re just distractions in my career right now,” said Quiambao of the reported offers.
“I’m focused on Gilas and I’m focused on the things that I need to improve, especially my skills,” added Quiambao in Filipino on Wednesday, January 31.
The reigning UAAP MVP made quite a splash in his stint with Strong Group, averaging 15.8 points in eight games for a stacked team that featured former NBA standouts Dwight Howard, Andre Roberson, and Andray Blatche.
His highest scoring performance came in a 22-point rout of Syrian squad Al Wahda on January 20 as Quiambao fired 24 points on a perfect 6-of-6 clip from three-point land.
A couple of days after, reports that the Knicks invited Quiambao for their NBA Summer League roster and that UAE offered to naturalize him came out.
Strong Group head coach Charles Tiu denied the Knicks’ invitation but confirmed that UAE showed an interest to tap Quiambao as a naturalized player.
Quiambao, though, would rather focus on the task at hand as he gets a chance to play for Cone – the winningest coach in PBA history with 25 titles – for the first time.
“To be under coach Tim is a huge privilege, a huge pressure at the same time, and a huge blessing. Coach Tim has a ton of experience and he has coached a lot of players,” said Quiambao.
“I’ll do my best, and whoever is in the lineup, I’ll cherish the moments that we’ll be spending together.”
Held scoreless in the Dubai final as Strong Group fell short of the title no thanks to Lebanese side Al Riyadi escaping on a buzzer-beater, Quiambao said his experience – the good and the bad – will come in handy for his career.
“The past two weeks felt like an entire year for me. It is a surreal feeling to share the floor with NBA superstars,” said Quiambao.
“I tried to maximize my time with them, no matter how short it was. It is a huge help and a huge motivation for my career. I’ll forever be proud.”
“These coming few weeks, I’ll work on getting my groove and confidence back knowing that we lost. I need to move on.”
Quiambao and Gilas will face Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei in the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers later in February. – Rappler.com