TAIPEI - The irony is not lost on Jimmy Alapag. Here he is, just weeks after coming out of retirement to play for Gilas Pilipinas and now set to make his debut in the 37th Jones Cup against, of all teams, South Korea.
"Destiny? I don't know," he laughed.
Coincidence or not, Alapag along with fellow Gilas mainstay Ranidel de Ocampo and new boys JC Intal and Aldrech Ramos will get their first runout in this tournament on Monday afternoon when the Philippines take on the Koreans in Day Three at the Xinzhuang Stadium.
Alapag and Co. got the call-up for the 12-man team for the 5 p.m. game after national coach Tab Baldwin decided to sit Troy Rosario, Sonny Thoss, Matt Ganuelas and Dondon Hontiveros, who he said is dealing with a minor knee issue after the 77-69 win over host Chinese-Taipei the night before.
Alapag now finds himself face to face once again with the Koreans, two years after making the biggest baskets in Gilas' win over Korea in the semifinals of the 2013 Fiba Asia in Manila that enabled the Philippines to punch a ticket for the 2014 Fiba World Cup.
Alapag understandably can't hide his excitement.
'I'm excited. After dealing with this quad injury since Estonia, I can't wait to get on the floor tonight," said the 5-8 guard, who hurt his quad in the days before Gilas' departure for a pocket tournament in Estonia.
"Considering Gilas' history against the Koreans, it's a coincidence that my first game back with Gilas is against them. I'm looking forward to it but again the important thing is to build on the Fiba Asia."
In his return, the former PBA MVP will now be sharing the backcourt with new faces in the national team that included Terrence Romeo, who torched Taipei with 18 points on Sunday including a couple of dazzling moves that have been played and replayed in the giant television above the stadium.
Baldwin's lineup decision also augurs well for de Ocampo, who will be playing for the first time with this rejigged Gilas team after dealing with a hamstring injury since its formation.
The South Korea game will gauge how well de Ocampo has recovered from the injury to play a role in this team bound for the Fiba Asia championships in Changsha, China from September 23 to October 3.