MANILA, Philippines – Better late than never.
After taking care of his school requirements in the US, 6-foot-7 banger Troy Rike finally debuted for the Gilas Pilipinas 2023 cadets in their very last game for the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup on Monday, June 4. The cadets finished their campaign with a 3-5 win-loss slate after thrashing the Mapua University (MU) Cardinals, 97-78.
However, the cadets have long been eliminated from playoff contention after starting out 1-5 due to multiple embarrassing losses. Therefore, the Wake Forest University graduate is out of games to play.
It was just his first game with the star-studded squad, but it looked like he’s been with them since the beginning. In just 16 minutes, Rike chipped in 11 points on 4/7 (57%) shooting, 8 rebounds, two assists, a block and even a three-pointer.
For a Gilas first-timer, Rike showed strong fundamentals on both ends of the court, which caught the attention of head coach Jong Uichico.
“He’s a great system player,” Uichico said in the post-game presser. “He just follows the system. He won’t go away from the system, which is also what we need in this team because [the rest] are all high-caliber, supposedly superstar players, so you need someone who’s a system player.”
And like a true system player, the 22-year old forward took his tactician’s comments in stride.
“That’s something that I take pride in,” he said. “I try to do the little things – help teammates out, give assists, run what the coach tells me to run. I’m not here to get buckets or show off to anyone to prove anything. I just want the team to win.”
“That’s the most important thing to me,” he added. “Honestly, I can say I’ve been playing like that my whole life.”
Despite his short-lived appearance in the tournament, Rike still relished the moment, albeit fleeting.
“It’s an honor playing for Gilas,” he said. “It’s all different being over here but I’m just getting adjusted and I’m having fun over here. I feel like with every game I play, I’m gonna get more and more accustomed to the Philippine style of play.”
While his FilOil stint is done, Rike still has a lot of playing opportunities and practices to go with the Nationals.
And of course, it’s just 2018. He has the time to burn, and the lessons to learn. – Rappler.com