ANTIPOLO – Years of waiting finally ended for Aaron Black as Gilas Pilipinas came calling for his services for the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in May.
The third-year Meralco guard was included to the 28-man pool for the regional biennial meet to be held in Cambodia on May 5-17, and he couldn’t be any more honored as he’d always wanted to be part of the men’s national team.
“Matagal ko nang gusto maging part ng Gilas. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be part of Gilas, ‘di ba,” he said moments after the Bolts’ Game 2 win over TNT in the PBA Governors’ Cup semis, Sunday at the Ynares Center here.
“For me, it’s definitely an honor. It’s a blessing. I’m definitely gonna work hard, be a sponge, learn as much as I can from everybody there,” he added.
The opportunity Black longed for was actually almost a decade in the making, or since he last played for the flag as part of the Batang Gilas crew that competed in the FIBA Asia U18 Championship 2014 in Doha, Qatar.
Named captain of that squad coached by Jamike Jarin, Black helped the youth team to a fifth-place finish in the continental cagefest.
His teammates, you wonder, included now-fellow Bolt and good pal Diego Dario, Rain or Shine key cogs Santi Santillan and Andrei Caracut, former B.League import Kobe Paras, and Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 player Paul Desiderio, to name some.
“‘Yun ‘yung last time na nakasali ako,” recalled the second-generation cager. “So, it’s definitely a great opportunity for me.”
Now he’s back serving the country, albeit with a far bigger responsibility of helping the program reclaim lost glory in the SEA Games.
It isn’t lost on Black that he and the rest of the pool will have to earn their spots in the lineup but all of them are fueled by one goal.
“We want to get the gold kasi last year, natalo,” he said. “I’m sure everybody’s hungry to work hard, to make sure na makuha namin ‘yung gold na ‘yon.
“Malalakas din naman ‘yung ibang mga team dun sa SEA Games so we can’t take them lightly. But for me, it’s really just going there first of all, to work hard, and to make sure that if I do get a spot, that I deserve it,” he added.
“At the same time, to learn as much as I can.”
The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.