From ruling the UAAP Season 78 to the SEABA Cup crown and just recently, the PBA D-League championship – there’s no doubt that Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia and RR Pogoy have been the most successful trio in the amateur ranks today.
And now, they are hoping that their success will spill over in the FIBA Asia Challenge where they were chosen as part of Gilas 5.0. But it will be an uphill climb for them given their lack of size and inexperience in the senior level of international basketball.
“Challenge para sa amin, kasi hindi naman kami yung matatangkad na line-up, tapos matatangkad kalaban namin. Kailangan double effort lang kami. ” Belo told FOX Sports.
Belo and the Gilas 5.0 crew will slug it out against the Asian elites led by China, defending champion Iran, vastly-improved India, and perennial contenders Korea and Japan.
The 6-foot-3 Belo, who was the UAAP 78 Finals MVP, though emphasized that they will have to compensate for their lack of ceiling by capitalizing on their strengths.
“Daanin nalang namin sa defense namin tsaka quickness namin,” said Belo.
The hot-shooting Pogoy, on the other hand, admitted that there is mounting pressure to deliver but his championship experience prepared him for the biggest challenge in his young career.
“May pressure din pero dapat marunong kang magdala. Oo, mga bata kami pero pag pupunta kami dun tapos mape-pressure lang kami, wala tayong patutunguhan. Dapat matutunan naming dalhin yun,” the feisty Cebuano guard said.
Tolomia, though doesn’t feel any pressure at all, and instead he looked at this opportunity to prove their doubters wrong.
“Walang pressure. Kasi bagong team lang kami, tapos bata pa. First time namin sasabak sa Asian level,” Pogoy Tolomia said.
“Basta ibigay lang namin yung best namin,” the 2016 PBA D-League Foundation Cup MVP added.
He also hit the one-sided basketball fans who continued on bashing the team despite their youth and inexperience – emphasizing that the fruits of their labor may not be visible for now but will reap it in the near future.
“Siguro karamihan naman sa kanila, hindi ganoon kalaki yung alam sa basketball. Kasi ang fan talaga alam ang hirap ng proseso sa basketball, yung sistema. Back to zero kami, back to zero yung process. So nasa process kami nang nag-uumpisa ulit, kaya hindi pa makita yung success. After how many years, months, dun lang nila makikita,” the 5-foot-11 guard added.
And as the FIBA Asia Challenge looms, the grown men from Morayta are ready to take on the new challenge.
There’s one thing, though, that will make them enjoy the ride – familiarity with each other.
“Matagal na kaming magkakasama. Matibay na yung samahan namin on and off the court. Kapa na namin ‘yung laro ng bawat isa,” Belo shared.
Aside from the trio, two more former FEU players, Russel Escoto and Carl Bryan Cruz, were named to the new national team giving Gilas 5.0 a cohesive core to work on. – By John Bryan Ulanday
Follow this writer on Twitter: @jbfu13