JC Intal’s only recollection of a national team stint is a little SEABA club championship in 2007, when he joined PBL stars and budding amateur players which included Ryan Araña, Jayson Castro, Al Magpayo, Jonathan Fernandez, and more.
The Philippines won the title with the help of reinforcements like Julius Nwosu and Vidal Massiah, and the highlight of Intal’s brief tour of duty was a 37-point eruption when the country blasted Vietnam, 158-36.
Eight years later, as Intal has come a long way and has grown as a player in the PBA, he finds himself back in white and blue — a moment he would treasure even if he does not make the final cut.
“Ibang level na ito. Hindi ko akalain na aabot ako sa Gilas. I will exert my effort every day. It’s an honor for me and my family. I am just happy that I am here,” Intal said, sharing he was surprised when he first received a call from Gilas’ Butch Antonio.
“Hindi ko [na] iniisip [na mapasama sa final 12],” he added. “I am just happy to be part of the Gilas pool. Kung papalarin, I am thankful. Pero ito pa lang, malaki na ang dinadala ko. Di ako makapaniwala talaga.”
In the Gilas 3.0 pool, Intal reunites with some of his teammates and fellow young stars in the mid-2000s, including Jayson Castro who is now considered Asia’s best point guard.
“Masaya ako kasama ko ulit si Jayson. Pati sina Gary [David] and Ranidel [De Ocampo]. Ayaw nga maniwala ni Ranidel na idol ko siya e. Since Air21 days, magkasama kami,” Intal recalled.
“[Si] Jayson kasi, iba ‘yung level niya ngayon. Since nakita ko siya nung PCU days, di naman siya tatawagin na number one point guard ng Asia dahil [sa wala].”
Even his former coaches in the amateur and professional ranks makes the adjustment even easier for the Barako Bull wing man.
“It is a great privilege to play for the country lalo na suot mo yung Gilas Pilipinas. Kasama mo pa si Coach Norman Black and Coach Jong Uichico. I am just very thankful that they gave me this opportunity,” he said.
It took him a while to return and not many thought he would again be donning the national team colors. But Intal is back, inspired, and is just willing to help the team in its build-up for the Olympic qualifiers.