PBA great Jeffrey Cariaso can well relate to the experience of Beau Belga, the last cut in Chot Reyes' team to the coming Fiba-Asia basketball championships in Manila.
Caraiso, afterall, was among the final cuts in not just one but two national teams before finally making it in 2002.
Cariaso, now one of San Mig Coffee's assistant coaches, believes the experience can be a strong motivating factor for Belga to get better and, hopefully, make it the national team in the future.
Cariaso said Belga should use the bitter experience “to motivate you to be better (and) work harder, because the opportunity to play (in the national team) will come again."
Belga better listen.
Cariaso was one of three amateur players invited to try out for spots in Norman Black's team to the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima which was made up of the core of the San Miguel Beer pro squad. He failed to make that team.
Four years later, he was also the last man to be released by then Alaska coach Tim Cone in the Centennial Team to the 1998 Asiad in Bangkok, although he did fly with the rest of the team to Thailand.
“We were 13 players the whole time when we flew to Bangkok. It was difficult because that was where the final lineup was to be announced,” Cariaso recalled.
“Of course, you are never secure until you are told that you are part of the team. But then came the day when coach Tim called me to his room. That moment, alam ko na that I won't make it (to the final roster).”
Belga went through the same experience just a few days ago when Reyes made the announcement while Belga and the rest of the team are in New Zealand for a 10-day training camp.
Cariaso admitted he took the bad news hard, having worked his tail off to make the unique selection of pro stars led by Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, Johnny Abarrientos, Zandro Limpot, Vergel Meneses, Allan Caidic, Kenneth Duremdes, and Dennis Espino.
“It was hard for me to accept during that time. I remember taking a long walk, though later on, I learned to accept it as some of my teammates came to console me,” remembered the 10-time PBA All-Star.
Cone recalled agonizing over the big decision.
“The guy I made my alternate (player), now one of my best friends and currently my assistant, was Jeff. He didn't want to be left off, but it was a hard thing to do. I had to go and tell him face to face and tell him why,” said the multi-titled PBA coach.
“I basically said I had to go for the veterans because he was the young guy then.”
Cariaso said the two failed attempts motivated him to strive even harder that when another opportunity came around to make the all-pro squad to the 2002 Busan Asiad, he made sure he won't be overlooked again.
Not only that.
That same year, Cariaso bagged his first Best Player of the Conference award after leading the Coca Cola Tigers to the All-Filipino crown, incidentally against Alaska and Cone, his former team and coach.
Cariaso has no doubt Belga can do the same.