Mixed feelings for Big Boy Belga joining Gilas Pilipinas
“Siyempre, masaya but at the same time, may konting pressure.  Kasi iba na ito (playing for Gilas). Di na ito Rain or Shine or team lang sa PBA,” says Rain or Shine slotman Beau Belga of his call-up to play for the national team. Jerome Ascano

BEAU Belga admitted having mixed emotions the moment he was informed by coach Chot Reyes that he’s been added to the Gilas Pilipinas national training pool that is leaving on Sunday for a two-week training camp in Lithuania.

The 6-foot-6 bruising big man of Rain or Shine joined Gilas in training only last week as a practice player, but learned about the call-up to formally join the national team last Wednesday.   

“Siyempre, masaya but at the same time, may konting pressure.  Kasi iba na ito (playing for Gilas). Di na ito Rain or Shine or team lang sa PBA,” Belga confided to Spin.ph after the team held its last practice Thursday night at the San Juan Arena prior to its departure for Lithuania.

Playing for flag and country is an entirely different story, according to the burly center out of Philippine Christian University especially since what’s at stake is no less than the country’s hope of returning back to the Fiba-World Championship for the first time since 1978.

“Iba pa rin `yung pressure kasi buong bansa na dinadala mo dito,” he added.

The 26-year-old Rain or Shine stalwart said he’s happy playing under a well-organized system run by Reyes and supported ably by veteran coaches like Norman Black of Talk ‘N Text and Meralco’s Ryan Gregorio and Jong Uichico.

“Masaya din.  Ayos `yung sistema.  Nagkakasundo ang lahat saka mababait mga teammates ko. Kita mo sa ensayo kasi ginagawa nila `yung drills, ako na nga lang ang lume-layup eh, sila lahat duma-dunk,” said the 225-pound Belga in jest.

Belga said he’s got one simple role for Gilas and that is to toughen further the team’s other big men like naturalized player Marcus Douthit, June Mar Fajardo, and Marc Pingris to prepare them for the serious grind ahead.

“Di ko ine-expect na maging malaki role ko. Pero siguro sa defense, yung maka-stop ng big men ng iba.  Maglalaban kami sa scrimmage ng hundred percent. Para sa akin, big achievement na `yung matulungan sila,” he added.

Belga’s first and only stint with the national team came in the 2007 Southeast Asian Games, where he was part of the Harbour Centre-backed squad that won the basketball gold for the 14th time since 1977.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @richava