AS much as Scottie Thompson enjoys the "Ginebra" chants from the packed crowd whenever he holds the court, he'd rather hear a different tune come Friday.
"Syempre, mas gusto ko marinig yung, 'Pilipinas!' Pilipinas tayo ngayon," the energetic guard said on the eve of Team Pilipinas' clash against Kazakhstan in the 2019 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers.
Thompson as well as fellow Gin Kings LA Tenorio, Greg Slaughter, and Japeth Aguilar earned their spots in coach Yeng Guiao's 12-man lineup for the first of two homestands at Mall of Asia Arena as they trade their usual Ginebra red for the Philippines' royal blue.
And there's no question that they're all humbled with the opportunity.
"I'm speaking on behalf of them, that we're very honored to be representing our country, at the same time representing our mother team which is Ginebra San Miguel," said Tenorio, who is making his Gilas return for the first time since 2014. "Nagpapasalamat din kami sa Ginebra for giving us this opportunity na makapaglaro sa national team."
"I'm proud of them," added long-time national team staple Aguilar. "Iba yung pinaglalaban namin ngayon cause we're playing for the country."
For the four Ginebra players, they know that their invite to the pool and this spot to the game roster is a testament to the quality of work they've put in for the past few PBA seasons, where the team won back-to-back Governors' Cup titles, as well as the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup.
"We just had a really good year and it's nice to have some familiarity with some of the players out there," said Slaughter, who is expected to make a towering combo up front with June Mar Fajardo. "We didn't have a lot of time to get the chemistry with the other guys, so it's nice to have some people that I've been playing with for a number of years out there."
That familiarity will come in handy for Team Pilipinas, which over the past two weeks has scampered for chemistry to prepare for this fifth window.
"Hindi masyadong mahirap mag-adjust kasi apat kami dito. Nagtutulungan kami as a team para makapag-adjust din nang mabilis sa system ni coach Yeng," said Thompson.
There's no denying that for the quartet, it will be a huge accomplishment to have all four of them on the floor for the same time in this duel against the Kazakhs.
"If magkaroon ng chance, that would be nice," quipped Aguilar.
Slaughter agreed, but was quick to note that what they're playing for here isn't just for Ginebra but rather, for a bigger cause.
"On this team, we're all playing for the Philippines. it's more than ourselves, it's really for our country," the 6-foot-11 slotman said.
In Tenorio's mind, though he feels the same way with the prospects of the four of them being on the floor at the same time, he knows that the success they got in Ginebra won't necessarily translate to the same results with the national team.
"We're just happy, but the work is not done. The work started today and hopefully, yung chemistry naming apat, madala namin sa game," he said.
There's no question, meanwhile, in Thompson's eyes that a lot of fans will be on their feet if that happens.
"I think kung magsabay-sabay kami sa court, dagdag boost sa amin yun. Siguro din yung crowd din, di ba? Baka i-cheer kami so makakadagdag kumpyansa yun sa amin. Nakakagana," he said.
That's why he's hoping that somehow, Gilas would imbibe their mother team's "NSD spirit."
"Sana yung 'Never Say Die spirit,' madala namin sa Gilas," he said. "Yung lalaruin namin is para sa team at gusto naming makatulong kami sa mga teammates namin at para sa bansa natin."