MANILA, Philippines — Rhenz Abando finally got the chance to prove his worth for Gilas Pilipinas.
Abando didn’t disappoint, impressing close to 12,000 fans inside Araneta Coliseum and those watching on TV with his performance against Italy in the Fiba World Cup 2023.
After seeing limited action in their first two games, Abando made the most of his extended playing time of 14 minutes and 44 seconds as he dropped eight points on 3-of-5 shooting and two rebounds.
He also got everyone’s attention with his empathic block on Giampaolo Ricci’s hook shot that energized the crowd with 1:16 remaining in the third quarter in the must-win game for the Philippines.
— FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 🏆 (@FIBAWC) August 29, 2023
The Korean Basketball League champion Anyang KGC’s Asian import admitted getting limited minutes somehow frustrated him but he simply stayed patient.
“I waited for so long. It was frustrating at times, but it was no time to get frustrated and feel anger,” said Abando after the Gilas Philippines’ 90-83 loss to Italyending up winless in three games in Group A. “I just grabbed the opportunity. I’m thankful.”
Since Gilas’ World Cup campaign started, the fans have been cheering on Abando from the team introductions and whenever he enters the court and gets the ball.
“I was eager to play and prove myself in front of the crowd, especially the Filipino fans. I just stayed ready,” said Abando, whose surname was chanted by the fans when he first entered the game against Italy.
Fueled by motivation
But the NCAA champion and rookie MVP out of Letran felt that he let the home crowd down after Gilas failed to get the win that would’ve propelled them into the second round of the Group Phase.
“I was happy for the support, but I felt like I also disappointed the fans,” Abando said. “I can’t say that we had a sorry performance because we really prepared for this. But unfortunately, Italy’s shots that weren’t falling in the past two games started to go in against us.”
Abando shared that he is using his limited minutes and getting cut in the Fiba Asian Qualifiers roaster as motivation to grow and be better as a national team player.
“Last time, FIBA Asia (qualifying window), I was cut. That became my motivation. I still have goals for myself. I know my lapses and the things I want to improve on. I need to correct my mistakes so I can get more minutes next time,” Abando said.
After his breakout performance in the World Cup, Abando vows to stay ready to deliver as Gilas looks to its last two games in the classification round also gunning to become the best Asian team to earn an outright berth in the Paris Olympics 2024.
And most importantly, Abando expressed that he will continue to play for the country when he gets a call-up.
“I guess we’ll play the way we did today. We’ll do our best in the coming games, “Abando said. “We’re hoping we can make it to the Olympics. That’s the highest level in basketball.
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