Five De La Salle University basketball players savored every minute of the Team USA basketball training camp conducted by assistant coach Erik Spoelstra.
Green Archers Raven Cortez, Matthew Rubico, Ethan Alian, Jcee Macalalag and Aaron James Buensalida were part of the select 40 young athletes from Metro Manila schools to get a once-in-a-lifetime training session with the two-time National Basketball Association champion mentor.
La Salle has been upgrading its team under new head coach Topex Robinson and Rubico said he enjoyed training under Spoelstra at the Shangri-La Hotel The Fort in Taguig City.
“For me the experience was solid. To train under coach Spo and have (US head coach) Steve Kerr and some of NBA players watch us train is such an experience,” said Rublico, who transferred to the Taft-based school after taking home the Season 98 National Collegiate Athletic Association Rookie of the Year honors.
“We’re going to remind our teammates about our communication. It’s important for us.”
Alian agrees with Rubico, saying their communication will be the key for the Archers as they seek to return to the Final Four after missing out last year in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.
“Coach noticed we lacked in communication back there so that’s something we need to improve on,” Alian said who committed to La Salle this year.
As for Cortez, who joined the Archers in 2020, he was able to test himself with the basketball drills that are standard in the United States.
“The one-on-one drills and the ones where you face the opponent because it tests how competitive the drills in the US are,” Cortez said.
‘We have to have better competitiveness with one another. Coach Spo told us to be better every day.”
A good start is something Macalalag picked up during the training camp with the Filipino-American coach.
“For me, we got to have high energy. We started with low intensity and we should have that high energy whenever we step onto the court,” Macalalag said, who was recruited by La Salle in 2021.
For Buensalida, his mind was put to the test in Spoelstra’s training clinic.
“The situational drills like the two-on-one drills pushed me because your mental toughness and your strength will be tested,” Buensalida said.
The Americans are on a redemption tour after losing the FIBA Basketball World Cup crown in 2019 in China.