AFTER the rest yelled “Laban Pilipinas,” Marc Pingris had the honor to shout “puso” at the top of his lungs during the final huddle at center court that signaled the end of Gilas Pilipinas practice on Saturday afternoon at Meralco Gym.
That was the least he could do.
The Star Hotshots forward reported for national team practice at last, but to formally excuse himself from joining the pool to focus on his mother team’s preparation for the upcoming season under new coach Jason Webb.
Three days after arriving from a trip from France, Pingris finally showed up in an emotional reunion with his former teammates in a national team he once served with pride and fervor.
He also talked with Gilas coach Tab Baldwin before the start of practice and hugged the American-Kiwi mentor after the talk.
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Baldwin rued the unavailability of the 6-foot-4 workhorse for the national team that’s vying for top honors in the Fiba Asia Championship next month.
“It’s a tragedy,” Baldwin said after practice. “Ping has great passion for the country; that’s clear to me. But he won’t be in the team.”
“Mahal ko yung Gilas, kaso may mga bagay na ‘di natin control,” a teary-eyed Pingris said before going off the record.
He said he was going to stay for just an hour, but ended up finishing the entire practice and shouting their battle cry.