MANILA, Philippines – The pressure may be high for Gilas Pilipinas, but Gabe Norwood believes that should not get in the way for the team to enjoy its World Cup bid.
The veteran forward wants the national team to savor the experience despite falling into a must-win situation against Qatar and Kazakhstan in the sixth and final window of the Asian Qualifiers.
"Enjoy it, embrace it. This is the chosen few that get the opportunity to get us to the next level," Norwood said when asked what he tells his teammates in the run-up for the sixth window. (READ: Thirdy, Barroca in for Gilas lineup vs Qatar)
"When you embrace the opportunity and the situation, that's when you're able to play with free-flowingness and things like that. Enjoy the process and play hard."
Of course, Norwood knows what he is talking about.
The 34-year-old Norwood, the longest tenured national team player, has been representing the Philippines since 2007, a year before he was drafted in the PBA.
Norwood established himself as the squad's premier defensive specialist, and in 2014, he helped the Philippines reach the World Cup in Spain for the first time in 36 years.
"It's really hard to put into words," he said of his World Cup stint, where the Philippines ended its campaign with an overtime win over Senegal following several heartbreaking losses earlier in the tournament.
"The memories you make, the whole thing was just amazing. From winning here at home to qualifying to actually being in Spain, training camp, everything, those are situations that you can't duplicate."
With the World Cup still within arm's reach of the Philippines, Norwood hopes that this new batch of Gilas gets the chance to know how it feels like advancing to the world stage. (SCENARIOS: How Gilas can qualify for FIBA World Cup)
"Every situation is unique, that's the driving force, the unique experience that you've never had before. Hopefully, everybody embraces that and have the chance to build great memories that nobody doesn't have."
The Philippines tangles with Qatar in Doha on Thursday, February 21 (Friday, February 22, Philippine time) before flying to Astana to face Kazakhstan on Sunday, February 24. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.