DAVAO CITY - His jersey number may have changed, but the athleticism and defensive prowess stayed the same.
Gabe Norwood officially changed his number from 10 to 5 on Sunday when Rain or Shine opened its PBA Philippine Cup campaign with an 87-74 rout of Alaska on Sunday at the University of Southeastern Philippine gym.
The versatile Elasto Painters small forward was his usual self as he tallied eight points, including two on a breakaway alley-oop slam off a Paul Lee feed that punctuated the Painters’ victory and sent the sellout crowd into delirium.
He also had an imprint on defense as the Painters held the Aces to just 24-of-70 shooting or just 34 percent from the field.
“I just wanted a fresh start to the year with a number I was still comfortable with,” the 28-year-old Norwood explained to Spin.ph a day after their opening game.
The 2008-09 PBA Rookie of the Year had been wearing the No. 5 since high school, then college at George Mason University, and in the defunct Philippine Basketball League, before giving it up to former Painter Rob Wainwright in Norwood’s freshman year.
He’s also the eldest of five children and grew up a fan of Jalen Rose, especially when he was still part of the Fab Five at Michigan, and Jason Kidd, who both wore No. 5.
Maligned for his lack of aggression, the Filipino-American underscored his significance for Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba-Asia Championship last August when emerged as the national team’s top defensive stopper.
His worth was none more evident than in the endgame of Gilas’s 86-79 semifinal win over Korea where he rejected a triple try by Kim Ming Goo to preserve the country’s return to the world stage for the first time in almost four decades.