NOT a few people were surprised when Jeron Teng and Arnold Van Opstal failed to make the cut in the tryouts for the Philippine team for the Southeast Asian Games next month.
Now it has happened again.
With the sudden exit of Bobby Ray Parks and Russell Escoto leaving two more openings for the Gilas cadet squad that will defend the gold medal in Singapore, Baldwin had a chance to put Teng or Van Opstal, or both, in his team.
Instead, the Gilas coach picked the two's young teammate at La Salle, Prince Rivero, to take the place of Escoto - a spot that was earmarked for Van Opstal under Baldwin's original plan prior to the Seaba championships.
On the other hand, San Beda guard Baser Amer was tapped to replace Parks.
Intrigued, we tossed the question to Baldwin. And he had a simple answer.
“Jeron and AVO (Opstal) stopped training with the team after the Seaba roster was announced," the American-New Zealander said in a message to Spin.ph, pointing out that Rivero and Amer continued to join the team in training.
“The team was always going to be selected from the training players. Prince and Baser were the best options in the squad,” he added.
Contacted by Spin.ph for comment, Teng confirmed that he no longer expected a call-up since he and Van Opstal stopped attending the Gilas cadets practice after missing the cut for the Seaba.
“Wala na (kaming ini-expect na call-up) syempre dahil nag-stop na kaming mag-practice. Si Prince naman hinayaan siya ng La Salle na mag-practice kasi sophomore pa lang siya, 'yung responsibilities for him hindi pa masasabi na kasing bigat ng sa amin ni Arnold,” Teng explained.
“La Salle din kasi decided na mag-focus na ko sa La Salle, kasi puro kami rookies ngayong season eh. Reserve lang naman ako last time so might as well balik na lang ako at focus sa team,” he added.
“Kami na kasi ni Arnold ang mga senior sa team, parang kami na ang mga captain, so napag-usapan namin na mag-stay na lang kami roon.”
Asked if he is still open to join the national team in the future, Teng's mood brightened up.
“Lahat naman ng players gusto mag play for the national team. Siguro kung ma-invite ulit ako next time, I’ll be happy to try out,” he said.
Teng bared he harbors no ill feelings toward Baldwin and the whole Gilas team, saying he remains in constant communication with the whole group through its Viber Group Chat.
“Andun pa rin ako sa Viber Group nila. Hindi ako umaalis at nakiki-participate pa nga ako sa kanila minsan-minsan eh,” said the son of former PBA forward Alvin Teng.
Amer, for his part, said being a regular in tryouts made it easier for him to step in for Parks.
“Tuloy tuloy po kasi kami sa ensayo saka gamay namin 'yung ibang bagong play. Kumbaga asa ensayo kami lagi kaya alam namin i-run,” said the wily San Beda guard.
Listen to interview with Jeron Teng in PODCAST