Javi Gomez de Liaño waited until around 7:00PM (Bahrain time) for it to be official that he had made the final cut for Gilas Pilipinas last Thursday.
Finally, after years of being cut in the youth team, he can finally don the country’s colors.
And it felt like a dream.
“I couldn’t believe that tomorrow is the big day. It was the biggest game of my career, so couldn’t help but to be very excited for it,” shared the 22-year-old product of University of the Philippines.
“Though I was able to sleep well early, I wanted to wake up as soon as possible for the game.”
But of course, Gomez de Liaño knows too well that making the team roster is just half of the battle.
The most crucial part is making a good first impression.
Having been under Coach Tab Baldwin for the past year, the 6-foot-4 swingman knows how the American-Kiwi tactician values roles more than talent.
If you do your job well, you get the playing time you deserve.
Gomez de Liaño’s task was to help crash the boards.
He subbed in with 2:58 in the first frame. The first international stat he put up was a rebound, which drew a nod from Baldwin.
“I’m really grateful for a coach like Coach Tab. Everyone knows he’s the best, and luckily I fit in well in his system,” expressed Gomez de Liano.
“Once a coach knows how to use you well, that’s a very big confidence boost itself.”
Gomez de Liaño ended up playing 17 minutes in the game, tallying nine points and three rebounds. More importantly, he was a huge part in Gilas’ 93-61 victory.
Despite a good account in his debut, Gomez de Liano does not feel satisfied. And if he gets to return on Monday, he plans to get better.
“We had some lapses during the game. We just have to work on those and our execution. It’s everyone’s first game in nine months so I’m happy with how we played as a team, but I know we’re gonna do better next game.”