MANILA, Philippines – A celebratory atmosphere followed SMART Gilas Pilipinas from the Araneta Coliseum to Barrio Fiesta at Ali Mall, where the team was feted following a tough win over Chinese-Taipei in the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifiers on Monday night.
There, Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. president Ronald Mascariñas, one of the chief boosters of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, not only gave the players their allowances and incentives, but also honored two players who were exemplary both on and off the court.
The night’s star was Gabe Norwood, who was given the first Chooks-to-Go loyalty award as he marked his 10th year of service to the national team program.
“It’s humbling, very humbling,” said the 6-foot-6 Norwood. “I can’t believe it’s been 10 years, right? It’s just an honor to be a part of this team, part of this group.”
Norwood averaged 7.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists during the first window of the qualifiers.
A part of the teams that won silver in the 2013 and 2015 editions of the FIBA Asia Championship, Norwood sees something special in this current batch of Gilas players – particularly because many of the young players in the group were inspired by the 2013 team’s historic triumph.
“The young guys are awesome. They bring a lot of energy to this team,” Norwood beamed. “They are not just the future of Gilas but also the future of Philippine basketball.”
At 32, Norwood knows his future with the national team is uncertain, which is why he is relishing every moment of the experience and doing all he can to impart his knowledge to the next generation of Gilas players.
“Time is undefeated so I’m just here, trying to enjoy every moment,” he said. “The format really helps but we don’t know how the PBA will work with it. But I’m just going to be here, enjoying every moment.”
Norwood took home a check worth PHP 60,000.
Also honored by Mascariñas and head coach Chot Reyes was Allein Maliksi, who received the Sportsmanship Award.
Though he did not play in the first qualifying window, the 30-year-old Maliksi showed no sign of bitterness and instead served as the team’s chief cheerleader from the bench.
Maliksi was given PHP 50,000.00 on top of his allowance and incentive.
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