Despite sluggish start, Isaiah Austin vows to repay overwhelming support from Gilas, PH fans
Isaiah Austin battled through jetlag but still went hard in his first practice with Gilas. Jerome Ascano

ISAIAH Austin hardly had a sleep, but wasted no time in joining 19 others in Gilas Pilipinas' practice at the Meralco Gym on Wednesday.

That was why Austin, who arrived in the country Tuesday evening, was sluggish in the Chooks-To-Go team’s first training for the Fiba Asia Champions Cup which kicks off on September 22.

"I was really, really sluggish. My legs, they weren’t with me today. I think it’s because I was jetlagged. I haven’t gotten enough rest," said the 7-foot-1 Austin, who had to sit when he talked to reporters.

But the naturalized player prospect still turned heads with his emphatic throwdowns and shooting from long range - skills the national team is looking for in a naturalized player.

It was no surprise that he impressed head coach Chot Reyes in his first day at work with PBA players like Calvin Abueva and Terrence Romeo as well as amateur standouts like Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng. 

But the outspoken mentor knows that given enough time to overcome jetlag, Austin can do so much more.

"I like the way he shot the ball during the shooting drills. We all know he can really shoot the ball," Reyes said of the prized cager, who went "drafted" in the NBA in 2014 but was shelved by marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder in the heart.

Now that he's healthy, Austin was just thankful the Philippine team bound for the China showpiece welcomed him with open arms.

"Oh man, I love them. They’re all energetic. They’re very, very welcoming today in practice," he said. 

"I don’t know any of these guys but they already accepted me into the family so that’s really all I could ask for."

Austin vowed to repay the trust and the love he has been getting from Filipino fans since setting foot in the country Tuesday night.

"Some days, it's basketball, you’re gonna play good, you’re gonna play bad. But the only thing you can control is your attitude and how hard you play," he said. "So I’m gonna play extremely hard. I’m gonna have a great attitude while doing it. I’m not supposed to be here in the first place but I’m here and I’m very thankful."

Follow the writer on Twitter: @janbballesteros