Matt Nieto has two tough responsibilities for Gilas Pilipinas in Manama, Bahrain.
Besides the task of sharing the wealth on the floor, the 23-year-old floor general is also serving as the leader of the young squad.
But Nieto is ready for this.
Back in the first window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, he picked the brains of the PBA players who were part of the pool, especially team captain Kiefer Ravena.
“Siguro it’s more of like ‘yung first window. I had to learn from my pro kuyas, asking them questions on what to do on certain scenarios, and really observing how they play internationally so I can be a better player,” said the 6-foot-1 floor general.
“Tapos now it’s time to show the new guys how to play the right way. How to play within the circle of the system and not forgetting our roles sa team. I had to be the first guy to show them that the system really works and [that] we could win with the system of the coaches.”
Unlike the first window, almost the entire 15-man pool of Gilas in the Manama window are aces for their respective schools.
There are the likes of Dwight Ramos, Kobe Paras, Rey Suerte, Justine Baltazar, and Juan Gomez de Liaño — all of whom are either MVPs, leading scorers, or mythical team members in their respective leagues.
And so prior to Gilas’ game against Thailand Friday evening, Nieto gathered the troops and talked to them.
“I just told them before the game started na to trust in the system. Sundan lang namin ‘yung system nila coach Jong [Uichico] and coach Tab [Baldwin] and good things will happen. Be as selfless as possible and make our teammates great. Don’t think about yourself and just let the game come to you,” he shared to Tiebreaker Times.
“Lahat tayo sisikat in our own very way through the system of coach Tab and coach Jong. Whether it’s in scoring, defense, assists, or rebounds, we will shine in different ways because of our system.”
The entire team believed him. After all, he won three UAAP championships under Baldwin.
And Nieto epitomized that trust as he orchestrated the Gilas offense.
In 22 minutes played — the most in the team — he dished out six assists while going a plus-25 in Gilas’ 93-61 rout of Thailand.
For him, the chance to lead his former collegiate opponents and unite the team led him to embrace the leadership role.
“It’s actually an amazing experience. We get to learn from one another. I get to see kung ano ‘yung perspective nila in playing basketball kasi before. lagi lang kami magkalaban. Then now we’re in one team representing the country.”