THERE can never be too many big men for Gilas Pilipinas.
After Greg Slaughter expressed his desire to make a national team comeback and form a triple-tower combination with mainstays June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar, another standout big man has signified the same intention.
Poy Erram is hoping for another shot at a Gilas pool call-up now that he’s back in tip-top shape and playing the best basketball of his life for Blackwater.
“Kung bibigyan ko ng chance, syempre tatanggapin ko talaga yun,” the 6-foot-7 slotman said in a chat with SPIN.ph after practice on Thursday on the eve of their PBA Philippine Cup game against Kia. “Pero habang wala pa, naka-focus muna ako sa team namin, kasi mas kailangan ako ng team, lalo ngayon na kailangan namin ng mga panalo para makapasok sa playoffs.”
“Pero kung dumating man yung chance na bigyan ako ng kahit na slim opportunity na kahit makapag-practice lang sa Gilas, kukunin ko syempre,” he added. “Pero habang wala, yung energy and focus ko, dun muna sa team.”
The Elite are sporting a 3-5 win-loss record and are outside the playoff circle of eight, needing a win against the cellar-dwelling Picanto on Friday night to boost their playoff bid.
Named to the national pool two years ago, Erram’s bid to don the country’s colors was derailed after suffering a devastating ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury that sidelined him for almost a year.
And the 27-year-old Ateneo product has been waiting for his second chance at getting back at the pool ever since, and now joining Elite teammates Allein Maliksi and Mac Belo with the player-limit rule already lifted.
“Oo naman, kahit naman siguro sino, talagang gusto maglaro for the country,” the Cagayan de Oro pride said. “Yun talaga yung pinakahihintay ko. Yun nga, nasayang, nawala yung chance ko before, pero hindi ko pa rin tinatanggal sa sarili ko na, malay mo, may call-up na dumating.”
Erram definitely deserves a look, having had a dominant showing on both ends this conference where he’s averaging 14.1 points, 12.8 boards, 3.5 blocks, 1.8 assists, and 1.1 steals in eight games so far. He’s coming off a statement 106-96 win over San Miguel Beer in a game where he posted a career-high 24 points, 18 rebounds, three blocks, three assists, two steals, and just one error.
According to chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III, the two highest-scoring games of Erram's career came against Fajardo, while the third-highest was versus Slaughter.
But Erram insisted he has nothing to prove to the league’s best big man – but only to himself.
“For myself, pino-prove ko sa sarili ko na kaya ko pala makipagsabayan,” Erram said. “Hindi ko sinasabi na yung matchup nila Greg, nila June Mar, hindi ko iniisip yun eh, kasi ang iniisip ko, kung ano yung score ko, score naman ng team ko eh; kung ano yung defense ko, yung stops ko, defensive stops ng team.”
“Pino-prove ko sa sarili ko na kaya ko palang gawin ko na yung dati hindi ko nagagawa, pero ngayon, mas nagagawa ko, mas maraming opportunity. Nakikita ko na may iaangat pa pala yung laro ko,” he added.
And he’ll just keep doing that for himself and his team.
“Yung opportunity na binibigay ni coach tapos yung attention na binibigay sa akin, ine-enjoy ko lang, pero hindi ko binabalewala,” Erram said. “Ine-enjoy ko siya, pero mas nagtatrabaho ako. Iba na rin yung role ko sa team eh, hindi na lang ako katulad ng dati na role player.
“Ngayon, kahit papaano, nare-realize ng iba kong teammates na kailangan din nila ako sa loob,” he added.