MANILA, Philippines – Former De La Salle University big man Abu Tratter wanted a souvenir after his first-ever practice with the Philippine national men's basketball team – a picture with his idol, Gabe Norwood.
Tratter was admittedly in awe of the Gilas Pilipinas veterans on Monday, when he participated in training for the first time since he was included in the "23 for 23" pool.
"At first, I was just shocked to see June Mar (Fajardo) and Gabe, just to be in the midst of them," said Tratter, who missed the first Gilas practice of the year because he was playing in a pocket tournament in Cebu with his D-League team, Marinerong Pilipino.
"I even asked them for a picture," he revealed. "Hopefully, they'll still give me one."
For Tratter, it was a humbling experience just to be included in the pool of cadets who may one day represent the country in international competitions – including the 2023 FIBA World Cup. It was an unexpected honor for the former La Salle forward, who spent most of his final two seasons as a back-up to star center Ben Mbala.
He believes that it was his willingness to do the "dirty work" on defense that got him noticed by the national team coaches.
"I think, just doing the dirty work -- whatever the team needed, whatever rebound or any steals, anything a player would need to pick up on," said Tratter. "(I'm about) turning garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back."
Tratter, who averaged 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in his final season as a Lasallian, knows that there is no guarantee he will play for the national team. But even so he is relishing the chance to simply learn from players like Fajardo and Norwood in practice.
"Just to be able to see these guys, be able to practice with these guys, to be able take in whatever information I can from them. Hopefully in the future, I can apply it," he said.
While cadet players are not required to attend the weekly practices, Tratter said he will try to do so whenever he can.
"Of course," he said. "Whenever I can, be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games."
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