Meet the Athletes in Action coach who first brought Gabe Norwood to the Philippines
American coach Morris Michalski says he's proud that Gabe Norwood has come a long way since his first visit to Manila with an Athletes in Action side back in 2006. Richard Dy

AS Gabe Norwood prepares for Gilas Pilipinas' campaign in the Fiba World Cup in Spain, Team USA chaplain Morris Michalski can't be any happier for his former player.

Michalski spoke fondly of Norwood on his return to Manila as coach of the Athletes in Action side that is on a two-week visit to play exhibition games against local teams.

Norwood was once part of this travelling team in a visit to Manila.

“I was Gabe Norwood’s coach once upon a time, and I’m happy to be back here (in Manila),” Michalski told shortly after Team AIA clobbered Blackwater, 114-61 in a friendly game on Saturday.

The soft-spoken American, currently the 'life coach' of reigning NBA MVP and Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, said he had fond memories from his visit to the Philippines in 2006 with an AIA side that included Norwood, who back then was playing for George Mason University.

Michalski said the 6-foot-5 Norwood has gone a long way since first setting foot in the Philippines and playing some friendly games with AIA against local teams in the Philippines eight years ago.

“I brought him (Norwood) over to the Philippines in 2006. He was a member of our (AIA) team and it was the first time he was exposed to the Philippines,” recalled Michalski.

“He had some heritage, and he said, 'I surrender my heart. I’m willing to go wherever you’re going,' so we ended up going to the Philippines,” he added.

“I saw him when he was playing at George Mason so I invited him. I said, ‘Would you like to grow with us? Would you like to grow in your relationship with Jesus and help share the difference he makes in the lives to others?' And now he’s part of Gilas that’s playing for the world championship. I’m so happy for him.”


AIA will play a few more tune-up matches with local teams this coming week before going back to the US. Michalski is set to join Team USA in Spain later this month for its title defense in the Fiba World Cup.

“He’s in Miami (with Gilas) and I’m here, but I send my love to him, and I want him to be happy for our work here. I’ll be going over to Spain and I’ll be routing for him, for (national coach) Chot (Reyes) and Gilas,” he said.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @richava