MANILA, Philippines – Terrence Romeo has come a long way since his days as the long-haired scoring prodigy for Far Eastern University. His journey brings him to the national team, where maturity is his main objective.
“Kailangan maaga ako mag-mature kasi lahat ng teammates ko magagaling na,” Romeo recognized what he needs to work on. “Para sa akin hindi ko na iniisip kung ano yung role ko. Basta para sakin, kung ano yung tingin ko makakatulong sa team, kung ano yung ipapagawa sa akin ni coach Tab [yun ang gagawin ko].”
(I need to mature faster because my teammates are already very good. I don’t think about my role. For me, I just do what I think will help the team and what coach Tab asks me to do.)
Romeo, 23, is part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool from which head coach Tab Baldwin will select the final 12-man line-up to compete for the gold and the Olympics berth at this year’s FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, Hunan, China.
It has long been Romeo’s dream to suit up for flag and country, and now he is presented an opportunity to fulfill that if he makes the final cut.
“Kailangan ko lang mag-focus,” said the highlight reel-loaded sophomore from Globalport. “Sa tingin ko hindi naman [ako mahihirapan mag-adjust]. Willing naman ako magpa-correct sa mga teammates ko.”
(I need to focus. I don’t think I’ll have a hard time adjusting. I’m willing to have my teammates correct me.)
On the road to achieving his Gilas dream, Romeo reunites with college mentor Nash Racela, who coached the 5-foot-10 point guard in his MVP season with the Tamaraws.
This time, Racela, an assistant coach for the national team, will stand witness again as Romeo finds his way with Gilas.
“I’m happy for him. He’s deserving to be in the pool,” said FEU head coach, who is looking to pick up right where they left off from Romeo’s final UAAP year in 2013.
“I’m excited to again be with him so we can continue to work on his maturity.”
During Season 76 of the UAAP, Racela openly declared maturity as Romeo’s weakness, which they both worked on that year. Racela opened Romeo’s mind to passing more to his teammates, making them a threat and drawing the defense away from him to create more opportunities.
Racela planted the seed, and it trickled over to the pro league and now to Gilas Pilipinas.
“I like him,” Baldwin said. “I think Terrence has some X-factor qualities. I think he’s one of the most competitive guys we’ve got in the environment.”
Romeo showed promise in his PBA rookie year, but broke out of his shell in his sophomore year as he earned the award for the 40th season’s Most Improved Player and joined the Mythical Second Team. That was on top of an already successful year that saw him make his first All-Star appearance as well as become All-Star MVP, Scoring Champion, and Three-Point Shootout Champion.
His success has much to do with his work ethic.
“I’ve witnessed his work ethic personally at FEU,” Racela shared. “And even now that he’s in the PBA already, you’ll see him do a lot of extra work in Moro Lorenzo Gym.”
Romeo has long been known for his takeover gene – a reputation that has turned into notoriety in college and never quite fully left him in the pros. But that natural ability may come in handy for Gilas.
“When I watched him do the FIBA 3x3 he was inspirational. When he felt he had to take over games he has the ability to do that,” Baldwin assessed.
“In international ball with a team full of very strong players around him, I think there’s less of a need of that. But it’s nice to know that’s there if I ever want to push the button. His attitude is great. He’s a very humble kid, he’s very respectful.”
If Romeo can’t play his natural role as go-to guy, Racela sees other areas where the 5th overall pick of the 2013 draft can contribute.
“His defensive aggressiveness and his ability to break down defenses will definitely help Gilas,” he noted.
Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler
Learning from Alapag
Like Baldwin, veteran guard Jimmy Alapag knows the team won’t rely on Romeo for firepower but believes the system “will only maximize his ability."
During practices in the last couple of weeks, the 37-year old can be seen speaking one-on-one with Romeo and giving him direction.
“Sobrang malaking privilege na si kuya Jimmy yung nagtuturo sa akin kasi sobrang experienced na siya internationally and alam na niya paano laruin yung international games,” Romeo said enthusiastically. “Sobrang thankful ako. Marami ako matututunan kay kuya Jimmy.”
(It’s a huge privilege that Jimmy is teaching me because he’s very experienced internationally and he knows how best to play international games. I’m very thankful. I’m going to learn a lot from Jimmy.)
Alapag is currently serving as practice player for the Gilas with the door still open for him to suit up one more time. He is taking advantage of the time he has to mentor a player considered to be in Gilas’ future.
“He’s incredibly talented. He has so much skill and that’s really been on full display this past year in the PBA. I think for him to have an opportunity not only to be on the national team, but to play for an Olympics slot, it’s only going to help better him moving forward in his career,” Alapag explained.
“I’m excited to be out here with him and chase him around a little bit and remember when I was that fast a few years back. He’s great. He works really hard. Great kid.”
Jimmy Alapag discussing with Terrence Romeo @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/TkZ2IRueyE — Jane Bracher (@janebracher) August 3, 2015
During training, Romeo also spends time with Asia’s best point guard Jayson Castro, as Racela advised.
“I hinted on spending time with other members. It will help develop relationships,” said Racela, who also noted key developments in Romeo’s game. “Decision-making is improving. And he’s involving his teammates more now.”
Romeo was deemed too small for international play many times before. Much had also been said of his style of play. But with talent, skill, attitude, hardwork, and a little maturity, Romeo continues up the ladder toward his dream.
“This is a kid who’s going to have a future in the Gilas program,” Baldwin declared. – Rappler.com