REPRESENTING the country has always been the highest honor for any player.
That holds true for TNT KaTropa players Jericho Cruz, Don Trollano, and Kelly Williams, who are poised to don the national tri-colors in the upcoming 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
The three are not bothered by criticisms of this Gilas version being a watered-down edition of the national team. Rather, they are humbled by this rare opportunity to fly the flag for Team Philippines.
"Excited ako," said Trollano, who is set to make his Gilas debut this August. "Syempre isang karangalan yun. Mula bata ka, yun ang pinangarap mo, na ma-represent natin ang bansa natin."
Teammate Cruz echoed his fellow Adamson product's sentiment.
"Sobrang happy," said the former King Falcon. "I get to represent not only my team but buong bayan. Blessing in disguise yun na I can do it with my team."
Cruz was part of the gold medal-winning squad in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games when he was still at Adamson and is understandably excited to wear that Gilas jersey anew.
"Syempre, we're on the top of Southeast Asia kaya sobrang saya nitong chance [to represent the country again]. I just want to cherish the moment," he said.
Cruz and Trollano know how special this foray will be, with their bond extending to the international stage after being partners from Adamson in the UAAP to Rain or Shine and eventually, TNT in the PBA.
"Tinext nga ako ni Jericho pagkalabas ng balita. Sabi niya, 'Pre, mukhang kasama tayong dalawa [sa Gilas]. May balat ata tayo sa pwet eh. Di tayo pinaghihiwalay. Mula Adamson, tayo pa rin hanggang ngayon,'" shared Trollano with a chuckle.
"Pero sobrang special nun. Yun ang maipagmamalaki mo sa mga anak mo balang araw, na na-represent ko 'yung bansa natin," he added.
But the honor isn't limited to just the former Falcons.
Williams sees this opportunity as a fitting swansong almost a decade since he last represented the country.
"It would be a great honor to play for the country especially now being 36 [years old]. One last run to represent the country would mean the world to me," he said.
Williams was a part of the Philippine team that placed sixth in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou under coach Rajko Toroman, and had his last international stint in the 2011 Fiba Asia Championship in Wuhan, where the country finished fourth.
"I'm excited if I get chosen, and I would be very grateful," said Williams.