MANY-TIME national player Dondon Hontiveros said he is more than happy to give way to younger players in the new Gilas Pilipinas pool, expressing elation over the PBA's decision to give full backing to the national team bound for next year's Olympic qualifying tournament.
Hontiveros was a member of the Gilas 3.0 team that finished second to China in the Fiba-Asia Championship in Changsha. The Alaska star said he didn't mind not being included in the 17-man pool sought by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and released by the PBA board on Wednesday.
The Cebuano hotshot said just being called to serve the country again at 38 was an honor in itself, adding he expects the next Gilas team to be a lot stronger for the July wildcard qualifiers.
“In a way, inexpect ko na rin yun (na baka wala na ko sa next team), kasi tinanong ako before pagkadating namin (from China). Para sa akin, kung ang lalaro dyan yung younger guys, it will be a stronger team,” said Hontiveros in an overseas call to Spin.ph.
“If makakasama pa sina Jordan (Clarkson) and Andray (Blatche), mas bata yun at athletic, mas better ang chance. Ako naman, I will support the entry of those guys not included in Gilas 3.0. Support pa rin ako sa kanila,” he added.
Aside from Hontiveros, Gilas 3.0 players who were not included in the 17-man players released by the PBA were Asi Taulava, JC Intal, Sonny Thoss and Gary David.
But more than feel bad for their absence, Hontiveros said it's time for the young guns to take over.
“Dapat nandyan naman na sila (younger players) palagi eh. Ikaw naman as a player, if given the chance, dapat you will give your best para magpakita. Kung hindi ka naman maisama, dapat masaya ka pa rin, kasi the younger guys are capable,” said Hontiveros.
“Syempre, nagkaka-edad na rin tayo. Sa Jones Cup nga, na-feel ko na ang aches and pains, pero buti naman na-program kami ng conditioning team kaya perfect ang health ko nung Fiba Asia and I think I did well,” he said.
Hontiveros said he can never be happier with the PBA decision to give Gilas its full support.
“Masaya ako sa nangyayari, yung ginawa ngayon ng lahat. And sana tayo makuhang host para mas malaki ang chance na makapag compete ang Philippines sa Olympics. Masaya ako kasi ang laki ng chance natin kasi the PBA is sending he best team,” he said.
With PBA’s best big men June Mar Fajardo, Ian Sangalang, Japeth Aguilar and Gregory Slaughter, top shooters Marcio Lassiter, Jeff Chan and Ryan Reyes and top point guards Paul Lee and LA Tenorio now in the pool, the 12-time PBA All Star believes the Philippines has become truly one of the best teams in Asia.
“Maganda yan kasi andyan na ang best players, although di ko naman sinasabi na hindi mahusay yung lineup namin last time. I just want to say na 'yung mga top players ng PBA every conference, andyan na eh,” he said.
Listen to overseas interview with Hontiveros: