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The Gilas Pilipinas Files: For Ryan Reyes, a comeback
by rick olivares pic by arvin lim
During the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships in Manila, Ryan Reyes sat with the roaring crowds as the Philippines battled its way to a silver medal finish. Reyes was on the pool of players but an injury knocked him out of contention for any slot. While he had fun being a spectator, the competitor in him wished he was with the national team. “I know I can help them,” he said back then.
Reyes, had to content himself to soaking in the incredible atmosphere. Since then, however, he’s been in and out of the injury list. But his recent form and good health have now found him on the pool for the Gilas Pilipinas team that is competing for a slot in the upcoming Rio Olympics. Ryan’s first and only stint so far with the national squad was way back in 2009 under Yeng Guiao. “It seems like a lifetime ago,” quipped Reyes.
Prior to the National Team’s departure for Greece — for a training camp in preparation for a pocket tournament prior to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila — Gilas topped Iran, 81-70, to a raucous crowd at the Big Dome. And the 6’2” Reyes, now wrapping up his ninth year in the pros, was incandescent; knocking down four triples including three in the third period.
On the day of the team’s departure for Europe (Friday, June 10), Reyes took some time to reflect on the days past and the days to come.
“When those three-pointers hit the bottom of the net? That felt great in so many ways,” he enthused. “First of all, Talk ’N Text (his professional basketball club) doesn’t have that many fans. We get about less than half of the coliseum during championship games but this is the first where the whole crowd roots for you so that’s a great feeling. Second, there’s a sense of relief. I just wanted to do good. I don’t know how many years I can continue to play professional basketball but I want to make it count. And if I can wear the national colors one more time that would be great.”
The Los Angeles, California-born Reyes was a high draft pick in 2007, going third overall. And that meant Sta. Lucia, the team that drafted him, was high on his talent and potential. “You think about a lot of things when you’re growing up. Playing in the NBA or the PBA. Then when you’re there, hopefully, the national team. You can’t look too far ahead and dream of all this stuff. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment. So for me, it was to establish myself as a dependable player for Sta. Lucia and then Talk ’N Text later on. Then it’s the national team.”
Reyes made a name for himself as a high intensity player who dove the floor for loose balls and attacked the basket like a runaway freight train. The championships came. But so did the injuries. And they forced Ryan to assess and even change his style of play. “It’s hard because your mind says this but your body says different. I have learned to adjust,” he underscores.
"Being this far and injury free and feeling good body-wise, I feel blessed. I just hope that I get through training camp injury free as well. You can see how concerned I am with everything that has happened over the past few years."
When national side head coach Tab Baldwin announced the pool of players a few months ago, Reyes was surprised — but happy - to hear his name called. “You bet I was surprised to hear my name. I’m just happy to be back in it. The challenge of helping and being on the team… that’s something I am gunning for."
During the Iran match, Reyes played like the Reyes of old. "It felt great. After making that first shot, I felt comfortable. All the nervousness and jitters went away. My teammates were finding me and that felt good. It was fortunate for me that the shots were falling.”
However, his three-point shooting isn’t the only thing his national coaches are asking of him. “Tab wants me to play really good defense. Other guards may be taller but delaying the attack, bringing up the ball, that helps the team. Coach Alex (Compton, Gilas’ assistant) has been working on my release; making it quicker. And on the drive, if I can approximate what Jayson (Castro) does that would help as well."
“I can’t tell you enough how good that sounds, being asked to do this and that. You’d think a player my age has learned everything there is to know. But that’s not the case. Me? I am just happy to help."