SEBASTIAN ‘Seb’ Salinas almost ended up being part of the original Gilas team under coach Rajko Toroman years back. But he decided to abandon his dream to play for the country and instead focused on earning a degree to be a teacher.
Fast forward to the present, and Salinas said he has no regrets over the decision.
“It’s awesome,” said Salinas, now a Physical Education teacher at Perth, Australia. “Seeing the kids develop, it’s a great feeling.”
Memories of his short but eventful stint with the Toroman-era Gilas side came flooding back for Salinas as he returned to the country while playing for the Perth Sharks in the ongoing 1st Philippine-Australia Goodwill Basketball Invitational.
He’s actually making quite an impression in the tournament by consistently scoring in the twenties for the Sharks behind his sizzling shooting from the outside.
Unknown to many, that same skill almost landed him a spot in the first Gilas side when he tried out back in 2009. He even had a chance to play for the team in a meet in Singapore, an experience he said he truly cherishes.
“Me and a friend of mine were invited. We were just really excited with the opportunity. We didn’t know what to expect,” said the 30-year-old, who still remembers playing alongside Chris Tiu, Jvee Casio, and Japeth Aguilar from the original Gilas squad.
“It was an eye-opening experience seeing them prepare and train. It was really a good experience,” he added.
But the uncertainty of the situation prompted Salinas, whose father Marino was a former San Sebastian athlete, to go back to Australia and finish his degree and 'do the right thing,' he said.
Besides, the competition for places at Gilas was tough then as other Fil-foreigners were also trying to make the team, including Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz.
Majority of the members of Gilas Pilipinas 1.0 are now playing in the PBA.
“I think it is just a combination of I was still studying at home and wanting to become a teacher. I have one year left to finish my degree. I didn’t really want to waste three years (with Gilas) because it wasn’t a definite thing to make the team.
“I made sure I do the right thing for myself and my family,” said Salinas.
Now that he’s a degree holder, Salinas admitted he still entertains thoughts of playing in the PBA someday, although he recognized that he might be too old to play pro ball in the country.
“At this stage, I just got married and I really have a full-time job. But if there is a right situation, I just have to see what happens. I’m not getting younger. I might be quite old to make that move,” said Salinas, who said he enjoys being a teacher to high school students for three years now.
If it doesn't happen, it's all right by him, too.
“But like I said, if the opportunity arises, I will definitely consider it," he added. “(But teaching) it’s a great feeling. I teach sports for a living so it’s easy for me. It’s really a good job.”