HE has long been out of the Gilas Pilipinas program after serving the national team well in the past.
Yet it still warms Larry Fonacier’s heart every time national coach Chot Reyes remembers his service to the team just like in the recent Gilas campaign in the 39th Jones Cup in Taipei.
Reyes rattled off the names of Fonacier and Jeff Chan as the 'benchmarks' for Gilas shooters following the arrival of new marksmen like Matthew Wright and Roger Pogoy.
Reyes and Fonacier won three championships together at Talk 'N Text and were part of the Gilas team that won the 2012 Jones Cup and finished runner-up in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship in Manila.
“They are the benchmarks for me,” said Reyes when asked about how he finds some of the outside gunners in the present national training pool. “The measure of a great shooter is consistency.”
The feeling is mutual. Fonacier, nicknamed the ‘Baby-Faced Assasin,’ said Reyes is one of the coaches who inspired him to be the player that he is today.
“I’m always thankful to coach Chot. Laging ganun ang iniisip niya about me,” said the NLEX forward. “He’s one of my favorite coaches, alam naman natin yun. So it’s an honor na masabihan ng ganun.”
His Fiba Asia stint four years ago proved to be Fonacier's last under Reyes. He begged off from playing for the team in the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain to recover from a ‘variety of foot and back injuries.’
Fonacier said he no longer entertains thoughts of playing for Gilas again.
“Wala na siyang (Reyes) planong kumuha ng 35 years old,” he said in between laughs.
But Fonacier said the national team is in good hands with Reyes, with young snipers emerging and ready to take his place.
“I think they are better than me,” he quipped. “Matthew Wright and the others, you can see naman their potential. They really deserve to be there and they’re gonna go far."
For now, Fonacier has set his sights on helping transform NLEX into a title contender. The Road Warriors are off to a good start in the season-ending PBA Governors Cup where they are currently on top of the standings with a 3-0 record.
Fonacier admits he has yet to fully recover from a foot injury that sidelined him midway through the Commissioner’s Cup, although he did play his best game in an NLEX uniform on Wednesday when he scored 11 points, including the game-clinching three-pointer in a 122-114 double overtime victory over Rain or Shine at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Hindi pa (fully recovered). Marami pa akong hahabulin,” he said about his health. “But I’ll keep working hard lang to keep it that way.”