PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA – From the opening of its weekly workouts in Manila, to the six-day, twice-a-day training session at the Inspire Academy in Laguna held beyond closed doors, collegiate star Michael Phillips of La Salle was able to make a good impression.
It’s not surprising why he was able to crack the final roster of the Gilas Pilipinas team, which begins its campaign on 9 May at the Morodok Techo National Stadium Elephant Hall 2 here.
“I was surprised with the way Michael Phillips performed during the training camp,” Reyes told Daily Tribune in an exclusive interview. “His athleticism and his length and his nose for the ball. He’ll be an asset because we need a big guy.”
The 6-foot-8 Phillips will share the front court along with Christian Standhardinger and Justin Brownlee, two star players from Barangay Ginebra, as well as Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser of NLEX and another promising collegiate player, Mason Amos, the youngest player in the team at 18.
Phillips’ objective was to learn from the best players from the PBA, but he brings a different kind of energy to the team and his enthusiasm and youth will somehow provide the Gilas team the balance it needs in its redemption tour.
The redeeming team Gilas Pilipinas opens its quest to regain supremacy on 9 May against Malaysia at 1 p.m.
Phillips’ brother, Ben, didn’t make the final roster, but he was able to join the trip to Cambodia as a reserve player.
Aaron Black of Meralco and Jeremiah Gray of Ginebra were not able to make it due to injuries.
Black, son of PBA Hall of Famer and current Bolts head coach Norman Black, hurt his meniscus during the twice-a-day training sessions in Laguna while Gray has yet to recover fully from his injury.
According to Reyes, the twice-a-day session was a test of Phillips and the rest of the college players’ determination to make the final line up.
“They’re here not because there were a lot of injured players, but they were here because they’ve proven themselves worthy to be included in the SEA Games team,” added Reyes. “Michael Phillips had shown that, so as Mason Amos and Jerom Lastimosa.”
The members of the Gilas squad arrived Sunday morning and was told only by lunch time that they have a scheduled practice in the evening and immediately buckled down to work inside the 1,000-seater gymnasium.