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Gilas newbie wows Gabe

He may be new to Gilas Pilipinas but Jamie Malonzo is already being compared to the man long considered to be one of the pillars of the national team program — Gabe Norwood.

Norwood acknowledges the comparison but stressed that the high-flying Barangay Ginebra San Miguel swingman has his own talent and skill set that will give him a chance to stay with Gilas Pilipinas until the FIBA World Cup next year.

Norwood has what it takes to be a perfect role model for future Gilas stars.

The humble and soft-spoken Filipino-American from George Mason University served as a matchup nightmare for opposing teams, enough to lead Gilas Pilipinas to the 2014 and 2019 FIBA World Cup in Spain and China, respectively.

Now, he is taking a backseat in the Gilas program, allowing young guns to take over in a bid to lead the country to an impressive performance in the FIBA Basketball World Cup that the country will host next year.

And it looks like he is paying close attention to the 6-foot-6 Malonzo, who has the athleticism, the length, the versatility and the talent to emerge as one of the cornerstones of Gilas Pilipinas in the years to come.

“I like his versatility, his athleticism and the way he makes a contribution despite being a new member in the national squad,” Norwood told Daily Tribune in a conversation.

“Jamie is his own guy. Maybe in terms of built, we’re similar. But he makes his own mark and I like what I’m seeing so far.”

Gilas Pilipinas’ wing position is already loaded with talent.

Scottie Thompson, the hero in their 74-66 win over Jordan in their fifth window battle in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers last week, is dominating the position as well as Japan B. League stars Dwight Ramos and Thirdy Ravena.

Ray Parks, Calvin Oftana and two-way player Roger Pogoy are also being deployed at the two and three positions depending on the playbook of Gilas coach Chot Reyes.

Still, Norwood believes that Malonzo has a very high potential of staying in the national squad.

“I think Jamie is relishing the opportunity to play for the Philippine team at this time,” Norwood said.

“Whether he can become a mainstay of the program just like what I did in the past isn’t guaranteed and that’s what coaches like Coach Chot, Coach Tab (Baldwin) and Coach Yeng (Guiao) will most likely tell.”

“They would want the players to enjoy and take pride of this opportunity but becoming a part of the Philippine team won’t be guaranteed.”

No other player has perhaps represented Gilas many times before than Norwood.

Norwood first caught the fancy of Reyes when he was still playing for the Patriots, helping them reach the Final Four of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament while playing the role of a sixth man.

As a key player of the Patriots, he was able to do a decent job guarding future National Basketball Association star Rudy Gay.

From college, Norwood was picked up by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to join the national team in the 2007 FIBA Asia Championship in Tokushima and since then, he has become a regular fixture in the program in which he saw action in various FIBA events in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Norwood even provided a game to remember when he posterized former National Basketball Association star Luis Scola of Argentina during the 2014 World Cup in Seville, Spain.

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