VIC Manuel is easily one of the most popular players in this Gilas Pilipinas batch and for a good reason.
Manuel has been flexing his muscles in his first tour of duty for the Philippines in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, leading the national team in scoring with 16.0 points per outing, and his performance on Monday was no exception.
The Alaska forward was a model of efficiency anew as he finished with 12 points on 6-8 shooting in Gilas’ 97-70 blowout win over Indonesia at the Mall of Asia Arena.
His fans aren’t limited to Filipino spectators. He also caught the eye of former Gilas mentor and now-Indonesia head coach Rajko Toroman, who even compared him to Serbia star Nikola Jokic.
“You saw Manuel, Vic Manuel was like Jokic. We can’t stop him inside," Toroman said. "He was unstoppable. That’s what it is, that’s the reason we need a big guy."
Manuel, who’s one of the most laid back players out of the court, shrugged that compliment off to no one’s surprise.
“Jokic? Grabe naman yun. Mataba yun. Chubby yun eh. Grabe naman yun,” Manuel said with a laugh.
But he knows that he’s got a lot of things to work on if he wants to live up to the comparisons of the former Gilas Pilipinas head coach.
“Siguro kung magiging Jokic ako, kulang na lang yung mga assists, yung mga ganung pasa,” Manuel added while mimicking Jokic’ trademark no-look passes.
All comparisons aside, Manuel’s focus is entirely on the task at hand - to keep the Philippines’ dominance in Southeast Asian region while personally winning his first ever gold medal as a national athlete.
On Tuesday, Manuel will get that chance when they take on Thailand.
“Syempre gustung-gusto ko makakuha kasi first time ko dito maglaro sa SEA Games tapos first time ko rin maglaro sa national team natin. Yun naman yung goal naming lahat, makuha yun,” Manuel said.
“Kailangan talaga dumepensa talaga kami bukas kasi alam namin yung Thailand offensive-minded talaga sila. So kailangan ma-stop namin yung mga execution nila, yun ang importante bukas.”