MANILA, Philippines – If this was Chris Ross' only chance to play for the Philippines, he surely made it one to remember.
"Gilas Chris Ross" was sensational during the Philippines' campaign in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, with the San Miguel guard barely needing to score in order to control their games. He averaged just four points, but tallied 7.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game, while guarding their opponent's best players.
His leadership drew great praise from coach Tim Cone as well. After their rout of Thailand to secure the gold medal, Cone said that Ross was a game-changer for the team, particularly during third quarters which was usually when Gilas Pilipinas would pull away.
"He had such great moments throughout this tournament in terms of turning that switch on for us and getting us going," said Cone.
"The steal, the early play against Vietnam in the second half, the two three-point shots against Indonesia to get us going, and then the transition push off the ball and the defense, he dominated there in the third quarter also against Thailand," he enumerated.
"He had great moments throughout the whole tournament."
For Ross, the experience was unforgettable. This marked the first time he got to play for flag and country, as he was not eligible to do so in FIBA tournaments unless as a naturalized player.
After their triumph, he could barely put into words the happiness that he felt.
"Like, winning a championship, even after I've won whatever amount, it's always a different feeling, it always gives me butterflies," said Ross.
"Winning the gold, it's my first gold medal, my first time playing for the flag and country, it's really unexplainable," he added.
"To win it here at home, in front of the amazing fans and family, it's really special."
Ross has never made a secret of his desire to play for the Philippines, and when he got the chance, he made the most out of it. He is well aware that another call-up to the national team is no certainty for him, given the FIBA rules.
"I just really want to take advantage of this situation, because you never know what's gonna happen," said Ross.
"I'm getting a little older, and I don't think they're gonna change the rule anytime soon. So I just really wanted to take advantage of whatever opportunity I had, and luckily I had a great group of guys, a great group of coaches, and we really took advantage of it," he also said.
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