FANS have been long salivating the chance to see the fierce five of San Miguel in national tri-colors, and in the fifth window of the 2019 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers, that dream will finally come true.
June Mar Fajardo makes his much-awaited return to Team Philippines and he will bring Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos, and Christian Standhardinger with him in coach Yeng Guiao's 20-man pool.
And for the Beermen who were given the invite, it's a great opportunity for them to showcase what they can do in the international stage after establishing their own dynasty in the PBA.
"I'm glad that my teammates are here and we can continue playing here," said Standhardinger, who will serve as one of the squad's naturalized players anew together with Stanley Pringle.
Lassiter added: "I'm excited for us. We want to be there and hopefully, make history as we try to win these games so we can compete in the ultimate goal which is the World Cup."
"Syempre masaya kami, pero iba ang sistema ng San Miguel dito sa national team kaya kahit sabihin natin na matagal na kaming magkakasama, kailangan pa rin naming magtrabaho," said Fajardo, who's making a national team comeback after suffering from a fractured right shin that cost him the fourth window.
But though San Miguel takes great pride in allowing these players for national cause, not a few couldn't help but feel an obvious absence in fifth starter Chris Ross.
And his teammates agree.
"Alam naman natin na pwede rin siya makasama dito," quipped Santos. "May talento din siya at alam natin ang madadala niya, lalo na sa depensa."
In Fiba competitions, Ross is regarded as a naturalized player as the two-time Defensive Player of the Year failed to secure his Philippine passport before the age of 16.
That, though, couldn't stop Lassiter from doubling down on that idea, vouching his support for his teammate to be included in the pool as the Philippines' third naturalized player behind Standhardinger and Pringle.
"I'm throwing it out there right now: Naturalize him. Put him as the third guy in the pool," he said. "You got Stanley and Christian. I'm throwing Ross out there. If we could throw in his name in the pool and get him on the court. That would be cool."
It is only doable, however, in a perfect world.
Lassiter, himself, acknowledged the glut of court generals Guiao has on this pool, which are no doubt some of the best point guards the country has to offer.
"No offense to Ross, but we got so many great point guards here," he said. "Jayson (Castro) is the best point guard in Asia. Then you got LA (Tenorio), Paul Lee, and Alex, and you got Stanley. So honestly, if you got Chris here, that's six great point guards and you can't play all of them. They all deserve to be on this team and it's good to see majority of the point guards here competing for this window."
Cabagnot also shares the same sentiment, that as much as he'd love to have his backcourt partner in Team Pilipinas, he knows that everyone in the pool deserves their nod here.
"Obviously, whoever is chosen here is meant to be here," he said as they turn all their focus from their failed bid in the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup to Team Pilipinas.
"We don't want to be on vacation right now, we want to be in the playoffs. But I think it's another blessing that was given to us that we can play still. Instead of being on vacation, we could help the country and be the best ambassadors that we could be."
Though Ross isn't with his fellow Beermen in this tour of duty for the national team, Fajardo knows that the feisty defender is there with the rest of them in spirit.
"Nandyan naman si Chris Ross na sumusuporta sa atin. For sure, masaya siya para sa amin," the four-time PBA MVP ended.