Only a few University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons have made it to the seniors team of Gilas
Since the inception of the Gilas Pilipinas program back in 2008, there are only a handful of products from the UP Men’s Basketball program that have been called to serve for flag and country.
The pioneer that broke the barrier was former UP big man Magi Sison. Sison, who eventually became the 11th overall pick in the 2011 PBA Rookie Draft, was part of the first iteration of the team that was handled by Rajko Toroman.
After Sison, there were only a few names that have been called up.
Back in 2012, former UAAP Rookie of the Year Woodward Co, though saddled in the bench, was part of the 2012 team that won the SEABA championship. More recently, Co’s fellow Xaverian Jett Manuel was part of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas team that played in the 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup. Both though were not able to crack the seniors squad.
This is the barrier incoming UP super senior Paul Desiderio and incoming sophomore Juan Gomez de Liano are trying to break as they are part of the 23 for 2023 Gilas pool.
“Sobrang saya. Naalala ko nasa Cebu pa ko nun tapos tinatawagan ako ni coach Ryan kaso mahina yung signal sa amin. Di ako ma-contact. Nung natanggap ko yung text ni coach Ryan, sobrang saya,” recalled Desiderio during the announcement of the line-up last Friday.
“Parang gusto ko na nga bumalik kaagad ng Manila nun.”
“I actually got shocked when I got the call from the SBP group saying that I made the pool for 2023. I was really excited for it and looking forward to working with these guys,” shared De Liano, on the other hand.
“I’m really thankful for it.”
Desiderio, UP’s leading scorer during the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball tournament, was showered by jabs of “Atin ‘to!” by the more veteran members of the team.
“Nanginginig pa ko kanina kasi mga idol ko yung kasama ko e. Naninibago pa ako,” quipped the 21-year-old scorer. “Sa next practice sana maka-adjust na ako.”
Motivated to be part of such an elite list, Desiderio’s underclassman De Liano put in some extra shooting after the night’s session, ending at around 10:45 in the evening. The practice ended at around 9:00pm.
“I just made the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity, just enjoying the process because I’m still young,” said the 18-year-old combo guard.
Both student-athletes are aiming to extract every knowledge they can get in this exercise and translate by leading UP next season and beyond.
“It’s exciting for UP’s future since both of us were handpicked,” expressed De Liano.
“Malaking bagay na kasama ko si Juan kasi rookie pa siya. Pag graduate ng wings namin, si Juan na mag-lealead sa kanila. Masaya ako para sa kanya,” added Desiderio.
“Nakikita ko na siya na ang magdadala ng UP.”
Together, they are also hoping to make UP proud by being part of the 2023 World Cup team.
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