MANILA, Philippines – With a look of resolve and with sweat soaking his shirt, Marc Pingris slogged in the paint as he jockeyed for position and anticipated where the pass or the bounce will come from. He’d stretch a little to the outside, rotate, then catch the ball for a two-handed lay-in.
“Aminin ko nahirapan talaga ako (I’ll admit I had a hard time),” the 6-foot-4 forward said after practice on Wednesday, August 26. “Maraming play na bago (There were plenty of new plays).”
Pingris, 33, has a lot of catching up to do after missing the first 3 weeks due to a scheduled trip to France and initially begging off from the pool to focus on his PBA team. Upon his return into the fold, he’s taken to asking his teammates a lot of questions and keenly observing.
“Tinuruan talaga ako ni Dondon (Hontiveros) tsaka ni Jimmy (Alapag) and Gabe (Norwood),” he said. “Sa bahay ko pa lang nagtanong na agad ako ng mga play.” (Dondon, Jimmy and Gabe were teaching me. I was still at home and I was already asking about the plays.)
Pingris, who has been with the team since 2013, bared he was particularly lost with the new offensive sets, which is a mix of the dribble drive system and what Gilas calls the swing offense. He's still familiar with the team's zone defensive sets.
“Kailangan talaga doble-kayod ako sa tanong tanong (I need to work double time on asking question),” he said.
Pingris said head coach Tab Baldwin specifically wants him to provide energy to the team, along with another spark plug Calvin Abueva.
“Nag-usap kami, sabi ko sa kanya, ‘tol bigyan natin ng energy yung practice.’ Tumawa siya. Sabi niya ‘kuya Ping, sige gawin natin yan’,” Pingris shared. “Siguro may matutulong yung energy namin and rebounds, and of course kung may opportunity ako maka-score, pero ang hinahanap dito ni coach yung energy talaga.”
(We spoke and I told him ‘bro let’s give energy in practice.’ He laughed. Then said ‘Ping, okay let’s do that.’ Perhaps our energy can be of help and our rebounds, and of course if I find an opportunity to score. But coach is really looking for energy.)
The hard-working big man certainly looked at home with Gilas Wednesday night, and didn’t seem like he lost any time at all. He was joking around with his teammates such as Andray Blatche, who immediately asked for Pingris upon his arrival 3 weeks ago.
“Very thankful kay coach Tab na tinanggap pa nila ako although kulang na ako sa oras. Parang yung naramdaman ko before nung una nila ako kinuha, ganoon yung nararamdaman ko rin ngayon na sobrang welcome ako sa team,” he said, sharing as well what he missed most about the team.
“Yung samahan, yung kulitan. Kahit sa PBA nagsisikuhan kami, pag dating dito magkakapatid. Talagang nasa likod mo ang isa’t isa. Yun ang talagang na-miss ko sa team na ‘to.”
(I’m very thankful to coach Tab that he still accepted me although we have little time left. I feel like the first time they asked me to join the team, when I was so welcome. The friendship, the teasing. Even if we box each other out in the PBA, when it comes to Gilas we’re all brothers. Everyone has each other’s backs. That’s what I really missed with this team.)
Pingris will join Gilas when it competes at the William Jones Cup in Taiwan for the first time since 2012. They open the tilt on Sunday, August 30 against Chinese Taipei A.
The team has only been home for 3 days coming off a week-long training camp and 4-nation pocket tournament in Estonia. Gilas is set to leave for Taiwan Friday morning, August 28 as they continue the build-up for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship starting on September 23 in Changsha, Hunan, China. – Rappler.com