IF there’s one guy who has seen the growth and the development of the Gilas Pilipinas program, it’s Marcus Douthit.
And from what he saw during the national team training on Thursday, 'Kuya Marcus' was more than pleased with the progress.
The 37-year-old naturalized big man was back in town last week and dropped by Thursday's practice at the Meralco Gym just to see old faces and give out his support to the program which made him a household name in the country.
Now playing in the Thailand professional league, Douthit marveled at how time flies – particularly with the growth of several players like Kiefer Ravena and Ray Parks.
It wasn’t too long ago when the pair were probably two of the youngest players in the lineup when Douthit suited up for the Southeast Asian Games in 2013 in Myanmar and in the 2015 edition in Singapore.
Now Ravena and Parks are expected to lead the young bunch into battle in Malaysia and that fact alone makes Douthit feel ‘older’ than usual.
“I feel old! Naw, it feels good. We're getting older, Kiefer's 23, Ray's 24. And as they get older, they get more experience. As they head to the PBA, they already are kinda like vets because playing for the national team, you earn your stripe. There's harder competition in the international game,” said Douthit, who can’t wait to see the two in action in the PBA.
“When they go to the PBA already, they are going to make the leap. After waiting and waiting and waiting for Ray and Kiefer to join, finally the wait is over. I'm excited for them and the rest of the guys. I kinda look forward to see them play for the home crowd. They tried internationally and, obviously, home is here. I'm excited to see him in the PBA and see what he can do to become one of the top players in the league,” he added.
One major difference from his time to now is the involvement of different players in the program.
Back then, it was a struggle to form a real ‘pool’ for the national team, with them getting just enough players to complete the roster.
Now, Gilas head coach Chot Reyes has a whole lot of players to choose from, with the cadet program and the PBA players working together with several other call-ups.
For Douthit, that’s a major step in the right direction for the Philippines.
“It's great to see to see this many players practicing. Back in my time, we were like 10 to 12 guys. Now, there's like 20 of them ready to play. They're still playing with their teams as well. It's great to see that their committed to play for the country,” he continued, while also saying that with the type of program now, the Philippines might not need a naturalized player in the future.
“I'm excited to see the new Gilas pool because at the end of the day, the young guys before have become the vets and now we got young kids, seven-footers and their just 16. As far as like getting naturalized players, we could shy away from that soon.”
Despite playing, and staying, elsewhere Douthit guaranteed everyone that his heart is always with the Philippines no matter where basketball leads him.
He might not be a Filipino by blood, but because of basketball, he will always be “Kuya” Marcus to the national team.
“You know every time I’m on Twitter or I’m online, or I’m looking for a newspaper, or anything, I’m talking to Jimmy (Alapag) there’s always an urge to see how the guys are doing, you know the next tournament coming up, follow them, watching them,” said Douthit.
“There’s always an urge and my heart is always here ‘til I die.”