THEY received their invitations barely a week before the start of the tryouts for Sinag Pilipinas and admitted they were not fully prepared, but Mark Jayven Tallo and Jasper Parker just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
The two stars of the Southwestern University Cobras in the Cebu Schools Athletic Federation (Cesafi) said they are spending their own money for travel and lodging just to train under coach Tab Baldwin and play alongside some of the best amateur players in the country.
“Binigyan kami ng invitation letter. Akala ko hindi kami matutuloy dito at first kasi nung nabigyan kami ng invitation, next week na ’yung tryouts. Gumawa kami ng paraan para makapunta dito,” said the 21-year-old Tallo.
The two understand it will be tough competing for places against the likes of UAAP MVP Kiefer Ravena and NCAA counterpart Scottie Thompson aside from the members of collegiate champion teams of National University and San Beda.
[See Gilas coach Tab Baldwin spoiled for choice as best of the best in college hoops shows up for tryouts]
But the two aren’t even talking about clinching slots in the team seeing action Southeast Asian Basketball Association championship and the Southeast Asian Games, instead using words such as “practice” and “experience” to describe their participation in the selection process.
“Siyempre I feel special. Kami lang ni Parker ’yung from Cebu. The fact na part kami dito, blessing na. Matanggap man o hindi, at least naka-experience kami practicing with these guys,” said Tallo, son of former PBA player and namesake Mark.
Parker is likewise honored to be invited to Manila.
“Definitely, it’s an honor especially me coming from the States and now trying to represent the Philippines,” said Parker.
Tallo and Parker said they are cherishing the experience of being coached by Baldwin, the Gilas Pilipinas head coach who will also be mentoring the all-amateur squad for the Seaba and SEA Games.
“We don’t have a coach katulad niya na sobrang galing and sobrang disciplined mag-coach. Lahat dito sa tryouts, puro superstars pero naging equal lahat. ’Yung egos namin, nawawala dahil sa kanya,” said Tallo.
Parker said: “He knows what he is talking about, being around with Gilas and everything. It’s definitely good to take in all the knowledge that he knows and making us a lot better in our game. Definitely, we respect everything he says. He talks, we listen.”
Prodded to discuss possible SEAG and Seaba stints, Tallo and Parker said they intend to just play the roles they will be assigned to do.
“Siguro I’m just going to follow what coach gives me. Kahit anong role, kahit maliit, tatanggapin ko para sa team,” Tallo said.
“Just play my game and be a point guard, create for others, play for others, and try to help out in being a leader out there and controlling the game. Just contributing and getting the chemistry together,” Parker said.