PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA – More than a decade since he first played for the original Gilas team even before he joined the Philippine Basketball Association, veteran swingman Marcio Lassiter still couldn’t believe that he would play again for the national team – and win a gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games.
He was a part of the all-amateur team put together by Rajko Toroman in 2009 and played for Gilas until the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship before he and other stalwarts on the team like Japeth Aguilar, Chris Lutz, Mark Barroca, JVee Casio and later on, Chris Tiu, entered the PBA.
Fast forward 2023, Lassiter is still shooting hoops and becoming a key part of the Gilas Pilipinas’ redemption squad that won back the gold medal for the country in the biennial meet.
“Words can’t describe how I feel. To be honest, I didn’t think I ever get back on the national team because of age and I’m older now, but I’m glad I was asked of another opportunity at this stage of my career. Anytime I can represent my country and play and perform at a high level like I did this whole tournament, it’s speak volume and I’m so honored,” said Lassiter, a nine-time PBA champion from San Miguel Beer.
At 36, Lassiter received a call up from the Gilas coaching staff headed by Chot Reyes to join the team. He was a previous member of the 2019 Gilas team then coached by Tim Cone and won a gold medal in the Manila Games.
But he worked his way back into the pool, joining the six-day training camp in Laguna and cracking the final roster for the SEA Games this year.
In the end, he wound up with a gold medal.
“It’s all ‘puso’, it came from my heart to go out there and play so hard – the defense I’m playing and making shots. It’s a team effort and a beautiful thing to see. Every time I hear the song (the national anthem) and see the flag being raised, it levels me up. It gives me goosebumps. I feel young and I don’t know if I can keep doing this,” he added.
For Lassiter, the current Gilas team that was able to get the job done is something to be proud of amid questions whether they can be able to win back the gold medal after losing to Indonesia in last year’s event in Hanoi and getting stunned by the American-reinforced Cambodia team in the group stage match of the SEA Games a few days ago.
Lassiter and the rest of the Gilas team proved them otherwise when they beat the host country for the gold medal.
“A lot of people were saying this is not the right line up or you shouldn’t have this guy, but hey, the guys in the locker room, we all knew we have enough to compete, we have enough talent and we have to believe in ourselves. We know that once we step on this court, everyone around the world are going to support us. We felt this in this gym. I knew that when I’m on the court, me and the other four guys playing, we’re gonna get it done and it’s sweet,” he added.