Arwind Santos is grateful that even at 37 years old Gilas coach Yeng Guiao still gave him a chance to play for the Philippines, nine years after he last saw action in international play.
That's why the San Miguel Beer star is eager to repay Guiao's trust by delivering, not necessarily on offense, but more on defense.
"I'm happy and excited to be given this chance to play for the Philippines," said a beaming Santos after Sunday's practice at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"Everything I've learned since I started playing basketball, particularly on defense, I will give my all. In fact, coach Yeng told me even if I don't score, it's fine, as long as I play defense," he added.
The 6-foot-4 Santos last played for the Philippine team in the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship, which incidentally Guiao also coached.
Santos may have a lot of mileage on his legs, but he's ready to get the job done and, hopefully, give the Philippines a confidence-boosting win following last Friday's 92-88 loss to Kazakhstan.
"Admittedly, I was really hurt when we lost to Kazakhstan. Even though I wasn't playing, I know how important that game was, but then, we have to chance to get back on our feet and try to correct whatever mistakes we've had in that game and Kazakhstan. Hopefully, we get the win to make our countrymen proud," said Santos.
Although it was confirmed on Sunday that veteran stars Hammed Haddadi and Nikkhah Bahrami won't be playing, Iran emains a dangerous squad. Santos said Gilas intends to come out firing from the get-go in the hopes of dictating the tempo and try to get the much-needed win.
Santos' frontcourt partner, Beau Belga, meanwhile, will serve as coach's extension on the court as he tries to help his teammates understand Guiao's system.
"I've played under coach for eight years and I can say I really know his system, and that's probably one reason why he included me here in the lineup to help other bigs understand what he really wants to be done," Belga said.
Belga was given a special assignment for the Iran game which is to defend one of Iran's tall frontcourt players.
When asked about the defensive assignment Guiao gave him, Belga had this to say: "Iran plays physical so I'll just to try to be at par with their physicality because I think coach just wants someone who can matchup with their big man."
However, Belga admitted the Iranian big men are physically strong and taller.
"Their bigs will really force themselves inside and they also run the fastbreak so if they give a solid screen, I just have to be ready and fight the pick," he said.