MANILA, Philippines -- Having established himself as one of the best young Filipino-Italian guards in Perugia, Gabriel Gomez is embracing a new challenge by committing to play for Ateneo de Manila University.
Gomez, 20, has said it is a "dream come true" for him to play for the Blue Eagles, the collegiate team of his idol, LA Tenorio. The young guard traces his roots to Nasugbu, Batangas, where Tenorio is also from.
"Super excited na po akong mag-start sa Ateneo," said Gomez, who is currently in Perugia, Italy, where he plays in several local leagues.
"Bibigay ko po ang 100% ko para matulungan ang team and mag-improve ang laro ko. But hindi lang po laro, pati sa academics, ibibigay ko lahat," he vowed.
Gomez will enter Ateneo as a graduate student, having finished his studies in Italy. He will be immediately eligible to play in Season 83.
While Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin has said that Gomez's knowledge of the "European style" of basketball is one of the player's advantages, Gomez is also eager to learn how to play the Filipino game.
"Ta-try ko po na ibigay 'yung experience ko sa Europe, then mag-learn ng Filipino style," he said. "Handa ako matuto every day."
In this regard, Gomez already has a head start. He competed in the 2019 NBTC National Championship last year, even teaming up with Far Eastern University-Diliman standout Cholo Anonuevo for the Italy Europe Proudly Pinoy squad.
He is also good friends with Dalph Panopio, the point guard of the Gilas Pilipinas Youth who has represented the Philippines in several FIBA tournaments.
Both young players have offered their advice to Gomez, even before he decided to play in the Philippines.
Gomez said Anonuevo encouraged him to play in the Philippines, while Panopio has given him some idea of the way Filipinos play.
"Kumbaga, mas pisikal po ang laro kaya kailangan po mag-practice po sa katawan. Then, mas mabilis po ang mga tao, mas mabilis ang mga player na naglalaro sa Philippines," Gomez said of Panopio's advice.
Baldwin, for his part, said Gomez will certainly learn from his teammates in Ateneo, as much as they will learn from him.
"Gab is gonna have a guy in SJ (Belangel) and other players, too -- Mamu (Gian Mamuyac) and Tyler (Tio) and Dwight Ramos and all these guys. He's gonna have lots of guys that he can learn about the Philippine style," said the coach.
"He's gonna need to do that, because we all know it's different," he added.
Gomez expects to return to the Philippines during the Christmas season, where he hopes to practice with the Blue Eagles for the first time.