James Spencer ready, raring to don different kind of 'Pilipinas'

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jun 17, 2019 04:52 PM
Spencer ready, raring to don different kind of 'Pilipinas'
James Spencer is, slowly but surely, loving the Filipino brand of basketball more and more

James Spencer was made to wait a little longer for the golden opportunity to represent the Philippines.

The Filipino-Australian came to the Philippines last year with the primary purpose of suiting up for Gilas Youth - then still known as Batang Gilas. "I've been eyeing the (youth) team since before I was even thinking to play college basketball out here. Batang Gilas was my first connection to the Philippines," he shared.

However, he fell short of being eligible for the 2018 FIBA Asia Under-18 Championship in Thailand. "I got to practice with the team a bit before they went to the qualifiers. Unfortunately, my Filipino passport, basically, wasn't in line then," he recalled.

Spencer made it clear, however, that his Filipino passport was actually good to go before that regional meet, but some complications apparently arose when it was forwarded to FIBA.

The 6-foot-3 promising prospect would have been a much welcome addition to a Batang Gilas side that reached the semifinals of the qualifiers. Not only is he a big-bodied guard, he is also a knockdown shooter.

He showed that sort of promise in last season's UAAP where he was part of the University of the Philippines' Cinderella run to the Finals.

Spencer totaled two points, 10 rebounds, and 40 minutes in nine games that gave him a taste of how it feels like to have "Pilipinas" on his jersey.

Fast forward a year and now, he is all set to contribute to Gilas Youth who will wage war in the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup as he has been named into the 14-man pool going to Qatar for training camp and then to Greece for the tournament proper.

For that, the 19-year-old is nothing but thankful. "Once the new coaching staff was in place, coach Sandy [Arespacochaga] gave me a call and said I should try out with my team. That's what I did and I've been given an opportunity to play in Qatar to play in a few tuneup games and participate in training camp," he said.

He then continued, "From there, they're gonna make a decision on who will play in Greece. I'm just glad to be part of it all and I'm just excited to play for the country."

And so, Spencer is now cherishing the golden opportunity to wear "Pilipinas" in international competition - "Pilipinas" without "Unibersidad ng" accompanying it.

If and when he makes the cut for the national youth team, he hopes he can be part of the process that will smooth over relations between the Philippines and Australia.

After all, a Fil-Aussie is the ideal candidate to prove that Filipinos and Australians can play nice once more. "I don't think people outside the Philippines understand Filipino hoops properly. I think it's something they really have to experience firsthand to appreciate how we play," he said.

He then continued, "There might be that stereotype that we're rough players who are not skillful and just wanna be rough. But really, we're just physical."

Whatever it is, Spencer promises to go all out for his family who have roots in Fairview, Quezon City. "I'm just happy for all of this and thankful my family is with me for all of this," he said.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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