By Jonas Terrado
Gabe Norwood will head to the Indonesia Asian Games as perhaps the player most motivated to help the Philippines produce at least a respectable finish after things beyond his control marred the past few weeks of his international career.
Not only did he became a last-minute inclusion to the rejigged Asiad squad, but Norwood is also set to don the national team colors for the first time since playing in Gilas Pilipinas’ fight-marred match against Australia in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers in early-July.
Ten players from Gilas were suspended after a fight broke out in the third quarter of the match held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, with Norwood being spared of any sanction after acting as one of the few peacemakers amid a group of men throwing punches, elbows and even chairs.
“You don’t want that memory to be your last game, so I’m just thankful for the opportunity to represent the country again,” Norwood said during this week’s training session at the Meralco gym.
Norwood is one of six Rain or Shine players part of the Asian Games roster which was formed after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas reversed its decision to withdraw from the Asian Games amid public clamor.
Six more players from other PBA teams and two from the Gilas Cadets were also added to the pool that will be coached by Yeng Guiao, Norwood’s former coach at Rain or Shine.
The team will have its work cut out in its bid to qualify for the quarterfinals after being bracketed alongside China and Kazakhstan in the group stage which starts a few days before the formal opening on Aug. 18.
“At the end of the day, we have the country on our chest. I think that’s enough motivation,” said Norwood. “A lot of things were out of the player’s hands, so it wasn’t necessarily our decision on how things we want to play out.
“But at the same time, this is our job, this is what we do and I think we’re handling it professionally,” he added.