Ryan Reyes takes advantage of rare chance to go for Gilas spot

For the first time in the last 7 years, veteran Tropang TNT guard Ryan Reyes gets another shot to make it to the Philippine national men’s basketball team.

And the 6-foot-2 Fil-Am combo guard is willing to do whatever it takes—whether he gets the nod or not to be included in Gilas Pilipinas’ ‘Final 12’ for the Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament set from July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Dubbed as “The Energizer” for his energetic defensive plays, Reyes has been considered by many as the darkhorse among the remaining guards on the Nationals’ side following the loss of Rain or Shine star Paul Lee due to a recurring knee injury.

But the former California State U-Fullerton standout is not one to think about his personal goals, saying he intends to help Gilas Pilipinas achieve its lofty dream of clinching the lone Rio de Janeiro Olympics ticket on the best way he can.

“Whether I get picked or not, I don’t really mind,” Reyes told FOX Sports in an exclusive interview following the Nationals’ recent practice at the Meralco gym in Ortigas, Pasig City. “I just want to help this team, help the country and fight for the country.”

After being drafted third overall by defunct Sta. Lucia in 2007, Reyes was named as the Rookie of the Year and was also included to the RP national team training pool, then handled by Yeng Guiao, the following year.

He played a key role in the Powerade-backed RP team that topped the 2009 SEABA Championships in Medan, Indonesia but failed to represent the Nationals in the FIBA Asia cage tilt in Tianjin, China where they placed eighth overall due to a knee injury.

And Reyes is hoping health will be in his favor if he ever gets the call to carry the country’s tricolors anew. “It’s been awhile (since I last suited up for the country),” he said. “Something happened back then. Knock on wood, I don’t want something (bad) to happen now.”

While he admitted it’s “unfortunate” not to see the 6-foot Lee represent the Philippines in the Olympic qualifiers, Reyes believes the remaining players in the pool are raring to prove their worth under “a healthy competition.”

“Everyone’s gonna get out there and play hard. We’re trying to make each other better. We’re not here to compete and fight for those spots. It’s like just healthy competition. We’re trying to make the team better as a unit, as a whole. And at the same time, make each other better and ourselves too individually,” he stressed.

Asked what’s the main instruction of Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin, Reyes shared: “He just told us to step out of our comfort zones and just play. Some people here are tagged as scorers, defenders but he wants us to do something. Each and everyone of us to step out of comfort zone. Be all-around players and improve.” — By Jerome Lagunzad