SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria is hardly surprised Arwind Santos is once again expected to miss the cut in the initial 26-man Gilas Pilipinas pool that will fight out for spots in the national team bound for the Fiba-Asia Championship in China this September.
While teammates June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter have been mentioned as shoo-ins for the national team, Santos is one of the players noticeably missing from an unofficial list of players that Gilas coach Tab Baldwin wants from his pool.
Sought for comment, Santos said he isn't sweating over the perceived snub.
“Thank you, kasi ganun talaga ang buhay eh,” the 34-year-old Pampanga native said at the end of the Beermen's practice on the eve of Game Three of the PBA Governors Cup Finals against Alaska.
“Hindi naman lagi gusto ka at hindi naman lagi ayaw ka. Ang akin lang, marunong akong makuntento. Kung anong meron ako at kung sino yung taong talagang naniniwala sa’kin, dun lang ako sa side na ‘yun. I always look at the positive side.”
If Santos is indeed out of Baldwin's wish list, Austria thinks he knows the reason why. The SMB coach said his star player is a combo forward who doesn’t have a natural position he can thrive at - an odd fit if a coach wants specific players for each role and position.
“Baka kung ako coach ng national team, yung ibang player rin hindi ko masama dahil gusto ko kasi puro natural sa position nila eh. Ayaw ko ng convertible,” the SMB coach admitted. “By doing that, ma-de-define mo yung role ng bawat player. Alam nila kung kailan ka gagamitin at kung bakit ka gagamitin, unlike if you’re a convertible player, a twinner.”
Austria admitted the 6-foot-4 Santos hardly has the height to be a power forward and the speed to be a small forward in international tournaments.
“Arwind is very small for a power forward and very slow for a wingman. And although he’s one of our outside shooters (at SMB), in international, it should be a quick jump shooter na catch-and-shoot type (who should get picked). Si Arwind is not that type of player. Maybe yun yung nakikita ng coach ng national team.”
“Ang nilalaro niya dito pwede siya maging power forward,” Austria added. “But as number three, hindi niya gamay ‘yun eh dahil ever since, number four ang position niya. Even though maliit siya for a number four, kaya naman nung kanyang talent at athleticism niya dito.”
Austria also feels there are plenty of other options who can offer what Santos can.
“Marami siyang ka-position katulad ni Ranidel (de Ocampo) na pwedeng i-provide rin ang ma-provide ni Arwind.”
Still, Austria believes the former league MVP should be considered at least in the pool.
“For me, he deserves to be part of the pool. But katulad ng sinabi ko, may kanya-kanyang opinion ang bawat coach eh,” Austria said. “Collective decision 'yan ng staff nila and we have to respect that.”
Santos stressed his first priority remains the Beermen, who he is trying to lead to a second championship this season.
“Hindi ko na inaano ‘yun (mapasama sa pool) eh,” Santos said. “Kung susumahin mo ang buhay naming mga player, ‘san ba talaga ang first priority namin, ‘di ba? Ang first priority ko, dahil dito ko nakuha lahat ng kagandahan ng buhay ko at para sa pamilya ko, ang San Miguel. Alam naman ng lahat ‘yun. Ito ang dapat kong paglingkuran.”
“Kung magkakaroon ng Gilas, second option,” he added.
Santos said he will not force a return to the national side.
“Ayaw ko kasi minsan na nagbubuhat ako ng sariling bangko eh. Kung ano yung nakikita nila - kung kaya ko o dapat ba ako -‘yun lang ako. Piliin mo ako o hindi, thank you.”