Coach Tab Baldwin welcomes presence of Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy in Gilas Pilipinas practice
FEU reunion at Gilas (from left) deputy coach Josh Reyes, former stars Terrence Romeo, Roger Pogoy, and Mac Belo, and head coach Nash Racela. Jerome Ascano

GILAS Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin welcomed the presence of Mac Belo and Roger Pogoy in practice on Monday, saying the Far Eastern University standouts will not only fill the void left by absentees, but also allow those present to get some rest if needed.

Belo joined the national men’s team in training for the first time, while Pogoy was also in attendance at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center, but stayed in the sidelines due to a minor hamstring injury.

“It’s good to get these young fellows in here,” Baldwin said. “These guys will allow the intensity level to be a little bit higher, because they allow the players to not only participate, but have the assurance that they can get a break when they need a break."

“All players like to know that they can go hard, but at the same time, they can get a break when they need one,” he added. “These guys give us that luxury.”

The FEU stars joined fellow amateur standouts Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Ferrer as part of the young group invited by Baldwin through the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).

Belo showed his dedication as he took part in some drills despite coming off a game in the PBA D-League just hours before.

“Okay lang, kasi pag mahal mo talaga yung sport mo, kahit pagod ka, (maglalaro ka),” the reigning UAAP Finals MVP said.

“Masaya and blessed ako,” he added. “Malaking tulong para sa akin kasi gusto ko rin madagdagan yung kaalaman ko sa basketball, at makasama yung mga magagaling na player dito sa Pilipinas.”

Pogoy, a surprise invitee, is hoping to take part in the drills in the coming weeks and take advantage of a rare opportunity.

“Kahit practice player lang, masaya,” the Cebuano cager said. “Nakakabigay ng kumpiyansa kasi mga PBA players na yung ka-ensayo mo eh. Bihira lang yung ganyan eh.”

“Hindi ko na-imagine ‘tong ganitong opportunity,” he added.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos