ALLEIN Maliksi pulled the trigger every time he saw an opening on Thursday afternoon, contributing to Gilas Pilipinas' torrid shooting from long distance in the team's 96-75 blowout of Rain or Shine in their tune-up game at the Hoops Center.
It may be just a small sample size, but it's not hard to tell that the streaky shooter is relishing his return to the national team after his stint with Gilas was interrupted a few months ago.
Maliksi made a solid national team debut last May as one of the team's top outside threats in the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship, solidifying his status as a mainstay moving forward.
But the 6-foot-3 wingman was left out of the Fiba Asia Cup in Lebanon and the SEA Games last August as coach Chot Reyes was left to choose just one between two Star Hotshots representatives in him and Jio Jalalon.
Reyes also wanted to field the 30-year-old Maliksi as one of the veterans in the young SEA Games squad, but “was asked not to put him there first.”
But the trade to Blackwater has paved the way for his national team comeback – without any hiccups this time.
“Nung nakaraan naman gusto ko sana maglaro kaya lang nga medyo may conflict so very excited na nakabalik sa Philippine team, syempre sa Gilas,” Maliksi said after their win over ROS.
“Tapos very excited din ako na makakalaro ako internationally kasi nung nakaraan dito lang din sa atin,” he added ahead of the first window of the qualifiers on November 24 against Japan in Tokyo. “Tapos medyo mas malalakas yung kalaban ngayon. So experience sakin na mag-improve pa and maitaas pa yung level ng game ko tapos makatulong doon sa team.”
Although surprised and regretful of his departure from Star where he won a grand slam, Maliksi refused to label his transfer to Blackwater as a consolation that now allows him to be available for national pools moving forward.
“Hindi ko alam eh,” Maliksi started. “Basta kung ano lang yung ... may situation na nangyayari sa career ko, yun lang, grab lang every opportunity na dadating, na binibigay ni God, so take lang positive yung mga situation na kung anong meron ka sa situation na yun. Yun lang muna i-deal mo. Wag mo nang i-deal yung mga negative.”
“Blessed pa rin ako kahit papano na mas maganda yung chances ko ngayon na lagi akong.. pwede akong every opportunity na may Gilas pool, mas pwede pa ako masama,” he added. “And also pagdating sa upcoming PBA, another opportunity to lead a team.”
But whether he makes the final roster or not – at least in the first game against – is immaterial. Being part of the national pool, alone, is already something to cherish.
“Kahit ano naman, kung mai-line up ako o hindi, happy naman ako na nakatrain ako dito sa Gilas kasi nag-iimprove ako, and also natututo ako sa mga teammates ko, kila coach,” the University of Santo Tomas product said. “So whatever happens, grateful ako na naging part ako sa pool ng Gilas.”