WITH his spot with Gilas Pilipinas still uncertain, Justin Chua vowed to work hard as if he is battling for a spot on the 12-man roster for the first window of the Fiba Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.
Chua joined Sunday’s Gilas practice where he trained alongside the members of the pool where the final 12 will be picked for the first window of the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers against Thailand on February 20 and Indonesia on February 23.
Chua, though, admitted he is still unsure whether he is already part of the pool in his participation with Gilas during Sunday’s practice. A source said the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas will appeal for Chua’s inclusion to the pool due to injuries to players in the pool.
Two players begged off from Gilas due to injuries in Christian Standhardinger and Mac Belo.
“Iba iba eh,” said the 30-year-old Chua, when asked about his status in the team. “Kasi ‘yung iba, may nagsabi kasama sa 24. May iba, sabi baka hindi na kasi nag-submit na ng line-up.”
The Phoenix Pulse cager, however, said he will be taking practices seriously as if he is part of the pool.
“Bahala na ang management kung ano gagawin nila. Basta ako, if I’m there, I’m just going to help na lang the team as much as I can,” Chua said.
A seven-year veteran in the PBA, Chua has been solid for Phoenix Pulse over the past seasons. In 2019, he averaged 8.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 39 games with the Fuel Masters.
Chua said he is honored to be part of the Gilas Pilipinas national team alongside the best players in the professional and amateur ranks. For Chua, it is also a dream come true even though he is still not officially part of the pool.
“Unang una, sobrang proud and sobrang happy kasi sobrang dream ko talaga maglaro sa Gilas. Eto may chance na. Pagbubutihan ko na lang. Sana makapasok sa line-up,” said Chua.
It will not be the first time that Chua was involved in the national team build-up, being part of the pool of players for the national team in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games coached by Norman Black.
“College ako, nag-SEA Games kami pero nag-back out ako noon. Pero sinama ako pero reserved na,” said Chua, who was with fellow former Ateneo players Kiefer Ravena and Greg Slaughter in the pool.
Chua said he is still adjusting to being part of Gilas Pilipinas since he doesn’t know most of the players in the pool personally, specifically the amateur players. But Chua said having former Ateneo players in the pool such as Ravena and Poy Erram is also making things easy for the Fuel Master.
“Nung una, kabado kasi bagong sistema na naman. I don’t know the young guys personally. Adjustment. Buti na lang yesterday, medyo skills lang at shooting,” said Chua.
“Nung napansin ko kasama ko ‘yung mga pro, halos mga kakilala ko na rin. Ilang beses ko na rin sila nakalaro at saka nag-Talk ‘N Text na ako before. Okay naman. Dami ring Atenista. ‘Yun din kaya mabilis din transition pagpasok kahapon. Pero kapag nag-5 on 5 na halo halo, hindi ko pa kabisado maglaro. Adjustment period pa rin,” he added.
Chua said the team is definitely not lacking in talent especially with the composition of the amateur standouts joining the PBA players.
“I’m really sure that they are really talented. ‘Yung kalaban naman namin, may experience and age. More than half, college pa. May experience na rin sa international pero ‘yung edad pa rin, iba pa rin. Talent-wise, it’s there,” said Chua.
Even with his selection with Gilas Pilipinas, Chua said he is not resting on his laurels as far as his game is concerned, as he promised to work even harder in training.
“Feel ko, hindi pa rin. Malayo pa,” said Chua, when told that his inclusion with Gilas makes him a marquee player in the PBA.