A pair of young guns are embracing local basketball and expressed readiness to go all out when Gilas Pilipinas competes in major international tournaments.
Mason Amos and Schonny Winston welcomed the challenges that will be thrown their way, starting with the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers that the country will host at the Philippine Arena this month.
The 18-year-old Amos, for one, is determined to land a spot in the final roster, saying that he will do everything to shine in a pool composed of some of the best and most talented basketball players in the country like six-time Philippine Basketball Association Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo and reigning MVP Scottie Thompson.
He is set to play for Ateneo de Manila University in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines this September, giving him a chance to learn at the feet of former Gilas Pilipinas mentor Tab Baldwin.
“My dad is a Filipino,” the Filipino-Australian Amos told Daily Tribune.
“He’s the one who taught me how to play basketball. But I started following Philippine basketball when I was 12 and I was watching the UAAP and the PBA. I always follow Ginebra and San Miguel. They’re always in the finals.”
“But I always wanted to play in the UAAP, so I played for Batang Gilas, under-18 team, so the men’s level is next for me.”
He added that he likes the Filipinos’ brand of basketball so adapting from the Australian to the local setting wasn’t hard for him.
“Filipinos are more physical and they’re a lot faster,” the 6-foot-7 stretch forward said.
“But to be honest, IQ-wise, Filipinos can really play. Australians are bigger and taller, but Filipinos played with a bigger heart and that’s how we win games.”
Unlike Amos, Winston is already done playing college basketball.
After helping De La Salle University in winning the PBA D-League title and becoming an integral part of the Green Archers’ campaign in the UAAP, Winston is now ready to embark on a full-time career in the country.
One thing that struck Winston the most about Philippine basketball, however, was its feverish passion for the game.
“Some schools from the Philippines were calling me from the States and I always knew that playing in the Philippines is an option,” Winston, who saw Division I action with Central Michigan University, said.
“I would say that the Filipinos are very passionate about basketball, more passionate than a lot of Americans. That’s what I’ve learned coming here as you see people playing outside and without shoes and basket that isn’t 10 feet high.”
“In the US, people would say they want to play indoor, but here in the Philippines, they would play everywhere.”
Both Winston and Amos are looking forward to playing for the national team when needed and — hopefully — open the door for more opportunities for them.
“The Philippines gave me my first platform at La Salle and the Philippines is almost like a home for me for about 10 months now,” Winston said.
“I’ve been here for a while, but my next step is the Gilas pool and I know Gilas is a great opportunity, and then, hopefully, the PBA, so we’re still trying to sort things out. I’m in talks with my family for my next step.”
Winston added that applying for the PBA Rookie Draft had already crossed his mind, but he has yet to come up with a final decision.
For Amos, meanwhile, it’s Gilas and Ateneo for now.
“I’m committed now with Ateneo. I went to the UAAP game and I couldn’t hear anything. It was loud and crazy, but I love the atmosphere,” Amos added.
“With Ateneo, under coach Tab Baldwin, he pushes me to my limits and making me better. I follow him whatever he needs me to do no and I’m looking forward to the coming season.”