IT’S going to be a little unfamiliar, but Matt Nieto promised to rep his twin brother Mike as he takes the international stage with Gilas Pilipinas this weekend.
It has been quite a long while without him by his side.
When Mike failed to make the cut in the national team's final 12 lineup, Matt said to SPIN Life: “I’m going to represent him para nandon pa rin siya, and I’m going to do everything para ma-feel niya na kasama pa rin siya."
He added: "It’s been a while na hindi kami magkasama maglalaro, or kahit mag-abroad. I’m really happy na nakasama ako but I’m there’s still a part of me that’s missing kasi wala si Mike. Pero mahirap lang talaga mamili ng roster. But I know my twin brother, he’s going to learn from this experience and he’ll be a better player. He knows when his time comes na.”
Matt is set to make his Gilas seniors debut on February 23 in Indonesia for the first window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers. Naturally, he is delighted to wear the country’s name on his jersey, as he vows to deliver the all-out performance fans have expected since his Ateneo days.
“I’m super excited for this. Kung grabe ako magpakamatay noon sa Ateneo para lang Manalo, what more ngayon na para sa Pilipinas," he explained. "Once I enter, pag naka-focus ako, I’ll just play my usual self, kung paano ako maglaro, just do whatever I can, do my role in the team and win it."
One of the first-timers in the team, Matt revealed that he’s eager to share the stage with the more veteran teammates.
“It’s just the start of my Gilas journey. Sinukli sa akin lahat ng pinaghirapan ko. Sobrang excited ko hindi ako makatulog pero alam ko nandon naman mga kuya ko to calm me down. One team na ako sa mga kuya ko — sila manong [Kiefer Ravena], CJ Perez, Abu Tratter, tapos kasama ko pati sila Juan [Gomez de Liano] na nakalaban ko dati sa UAAP,” he said.
It's a struggle not to get overwhelmed by the international stakes, but he knows who's got his back.
“Ayoko nang nasa limelight masyado," he demurred. "I’m just doing my job as perfect as I can because that’s me as a player. My biggest break still is having my family, and this time, my country to support [me]."