ARNOLD Van Opstal may not have played as much as he expected in his initial conference with San Miguel. Yet the championship experience and the winning culture he absorbed in his short stint so far with the three-time PBA Philippine Cup titlist will certainly come a long way as he joins the training pool of Gilas Pilipinas 5.0.
Van Opstal believes being part of the Beermen’s championship team has made him a better player as the national pool converges for the first time next week to begin preparation for the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship two months from now.
“The (championship) will help me a lot. I mean, even though I didn’t play, I’m still part of the championship team. I know how the vets played, I know what it takes, what they had to do, what sacrifices they had to make,” said the La Salle product prior to attending the team’s meet and greet with the fans at the Outdoor Alfresco Garden of Robinsons Magnolia on Wednesday.
“That rubs off on everyone on the team, and I can bring that championship experience to the team (Gilas).”
The Gilas training pool gathers for the first time on March 14 to 16 in an out-of-town training camp as it begins to get in shape for the SEABA tournament, which the country is hosting from May 16-21 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, with all 24 players – cadets and veterans – invited by coach Chot Reyes to join the three-day event.
Of the 12 Gilas cadets, the 6-foot-9 Van Opstal is the first to win a championship as a pro, an opportunity he describes as a blessing.
“I’m lucky to be part of this team. These guys aren’t just talented, they are great people. To be part of this organization is really special because these guys are my brothers now. I’ve won a championship with them. And nothing will be able to take that away,” said the rookie big man, one of four cadet centers along with the injured Russel Escoto, Alfonso Gotladera, and Bryan Cruz.
‘I’m just happy that I got the opportunity to meet these guys, be with this organization, and win a championship with them.”
It also doesn’t bother him that he hardly played in his first tournament as a Beerman. For Van Opstal, winning a championship is what matters most.
‘I just wanna win,” he stressed. “I had a great bunch of vets that treat me well every day, they keep me positive. they always motivate me. There’s nothing more I could ask for,” he stressed
“And its’ not about me, it’s about the team at the end of the day.”
With a PBA championship now safely tucked under his belt, Van Opstal is confident he can make the final 12-man roster of Gilas 5,0, at least for the SEABA meet.
“I’m hoping to be part of the 12. If they call me, I’ll be ready,” he said.