Intangibles are as integral to success in sports as the on-court production, but equally important is how intangibles reveal themselves off the court.
A player’s approach to practices and how he responds to coaching are, among other things, indications of his commitment not just to the team, but to themselves as well. Moreover, the way one responds to adversity, especially ones that go on behind closed doors, is even more telling.
As one of the final cuts, Chris Newsome could have gone home because he has every right not to be with Gilas Pilipinas anymore. Being so close yet so far to representing the flag at one of the biggest stages in international basketball has to hurt. But, he has chosen to stay.
There are reportedly no reserves for teams participating in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, but Newsome has nonetheless been a constant presence in games, helping out his teammates in warmups and providing support on the sidelines. In practices, he has provided an extra hand, likely serving as a scout player. To some, these things can go unnoticed and he has never really been among the more controversial players in the pool. The 2016 PBA Rookie of the Year, though, doesn’t seem to mind as he’s doing it all for the flag.
These acts not only affirm Newsome’s commitment and that should greatly matter at the national team level. Since he was given an exemption by FIBA and thus allowed to play for Gilas as a local, the Meralco Bolt immediately joined the national team practices and made his debut in the fourth window in the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. Even now, he’s been putting in the work as if he’s the 12th man on the roster. To say he’s the ultimate teammate would be fair, but he has been a professional in every sense of the word.
For a head coach like Chot Reyes, who was high on commitment in his previous interviews, all of that should matter. Besides, the best ability at this point is availability.
In fact, he was there during one of the more trying moments for Gilas Pilipinas in recent memory. The 2023 SEA Games is up there among the Philippines’ toughest regional campaigns, as the likes of the host team Cambodia took advantage of the lax eligibility rules that come with the SEA Games.
An early loss to the Cambodians nearly derailed their redemption bid, but Newsome was a steady presence in the gold medal run. Former Philippine national head coach Tab Baldwin recently emphasized the importance of “ball carriers” rather than typecasting basketball players by positions and Newsome’s role as a ball carrier has made him a more effective player while allowing his teammates on the perimeter to operate off the ball. In turn, it has unlocked other elements in his game, a development that should make the Bolts even more excited for his return.
After the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the Philippines will head to Hangzhou, China for the postponed 2022 Asian Games. By that time, the likes of Jordan Clarkson could be unavailable. Newsome’s eagerness should make what was once a really difficult decision a much easier one for Reyes and his coaching staff.
If Reyes and the Gilas coaching staff decide to go with whoever is left from the FIBA World Cup core, then at least Newsome is familiar with them. If he decides to go with younger players, then the 33-year old will be a great veteran presence. Either way, it’s looking like a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Players are usually judged by their actions on the court, but Chris Newsome’s presence despite being cut from the final roster of Gilas Pilipinas speaks volumes of his resolve with the team. If anything, it may have even earned him not just a spot on the Asian Games roster, but also the hearts of Philippine basketball fans.