LUCENA CITY— Hoisting a pair of All-Star Game MVP awards in the last three nights should make Phoenix rookie Matthew Wright a no-brainer in terms of his inclusion to the “Gilas 12” for the 2017 SEABA Championships next month.
Yet, the 6-foot-4 Fil-Canadian gunner could not help but be shocked on Friday night when he was formally announced by national team coach Chot Reyes as one of the fresh faces in Gilas 5.0 lineup.
“I was a little bit surprised. I can’t even lie,” said Wright who powered Gilas Pilipinas to a stunning 122-11 victory over a stacked PBA-Team Luzon crew in the second leg of the 2017 PBA All-Star Week at the Quezon Convention Center here.
The co-MVP awardee alongside fellow Gilas selection Troy Rosario in the Mindanao leg two nights ago, Wright sustained his brilliance against Team Luzon as he racked up 15 markers and issued a game-high seven assists in helping the Nationals overhaul a 17-point deficit in the third quarter.
The St. Bonaventure product, however, felt the MVP award should be given to his fellow cadet Mike Tolomia and Meralco guard Jonathan Grey who came through with big plays down the stretch.
“A lot of guys could’ve won this time,” he said. “So I’m just lucky it was my day today.”
And Wright must have even have luckier since he’ll be donning the country’s tri-colors anew in nearly a decade after suiting up for the Philippines back in the 2008 FIBA Asia Under-18 Championship in Tehran, Iran.
“I’m just gonna play my game. I’m just gonna do what I’ve been doing since I was 10 yrs old. I’m just gonna play off instinct. I’ll continue to learn the offense, continue to learn my teammates, and see where I can flourish on offense, and just get to build camaraderie,” he said.
“In the last two games we played in the All-Star, you see us develop as a team and get better. Even though we’re a young team, we showed a lot of heart today coming out—coming back from double-digits in the third quarter, I’m very proud of the guts for that.”
After undergoing a minor ankle surgery barely two months ago, Wright is surely on the right track in terms of getting his usual groove back.
“Coming off an injury, I was trying to get my stride,” he said. “I wasn’t really a hundred percent playing, but my ankle’s getting stronger. This is exactly what I need mentally and physically, and confidence heading into the SEABA tournament.
“I’ve been working hard all month ever since Tagaytay. I put pressure on myself to be in this team. Hard work pays off. That’s all I could say.”
And with the May 12 to 18 event dangling a lone ticket to this August’s FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon, Wright knows the Nationals could afford to let any opportunity slip away.
“We’ll try to win this tournament. It’s no secret. We have to win this, and that’s what we’re gonna do,” he vowed. “We’re gonna work hard, we’re gonna buckle down, we’re gonna get all the offensive and defensive principles down path, and we’re gonna win the tournament.”
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