AS one of the few remnants of the original Smart Gilas-Pilipinas, Marcus Douthit is happy to see the total transformation of the national team from a group of young men unsure of their ways to a band of veterans which knows exactly what to do at crunch time.
“There’s a big difference between this team and the last team,” said Douthit, the 6-foot-10 naturalized player once drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the 2004 NBA draft and now the tower of power for the country's national team.
While the 32-year-old native of Syracuse, New York was considered the senior statesman among a group of players mostly fresh out of college in the Smart Gilas team under coach Rajko Toroman, Douthit blended well with veteran players from the pro league in Chot Reyes' team.
That’s one of the major reasons why Toroman needed to tap the services of pro players Jimmy Alapag, Asi Taulava, Ranidel de Ocampo, Sol Mercado and Kelly Williams during the old Gilas team’s stint in the 2010 Asian Games and 2011 Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship.
“[All the players in this team are] all experienced, and they all have the heart to win,” he said. “The younger guys are still learning the process, still trying to find their way to the court."
“With these guys,” Douthit continued as he pointed at the two tables being shared by members of Reyes’ Gilas 2.0, “they already know what to do with the ball.”
Douthit was of course a major part of the team's Jones Cup success. Not only did he serve as the team's main man in the middle, he also got along well with the players as he immersed himself in the culture of his adopted country, becoming in the words of his teammates more Filipino in more ways than one.
“I just want to say thank you to MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan) for giving me the chance to become a part again of Gilas 2,” said Douthit, who became a naturalized Filipino citizen in March 2011.
Douthit was the fourth player to be considered for naturalization by Gilas after Jamal Sampson, CJ Giles, and Milan Vucicevic. But it was 'Big Daddy' who stayed on long enough to see the long buildup finally bear fruit.
“Hopefully, this is just the beginning of what can happen in the future,” Douthit said.