Christian Standhardinger is set to represent the country for a fourth time, this time at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Standhardinger joins a team made up primarily of the PBA's Rain or Shine Elasto Painters under coach Yeng Guiao.
"[I wanted] to use this break [after the PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals] to strengthen my left knee but the country calls and there's not really a choice for me," the 29-year-old San Miguel Beermen rookie said after their 83-87 Game 5 loss to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. "I wanna represent the country. I wanna make my fellow Filipinos proud, and I hope that we can do that."
Standhardinger has donned the national colors on a few other occasions after the 2017 Jones Cup -- during the last staging of the FIBA Asia Cup (formerly known as the FIBA Asia Championship) in Lebanon last year and then in Malaysia to team up with the Gilas Cadets in the Philippines' sweep of the men's basketball competition in the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
After those stints, he suited up for Hong Kong Eastern in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) and then joined the Beermen (the team that selected him as the top overall in the 2017 PBA Annual Rookie Draft) at the onset of the ongoing Commissioner's Cup. He recently represented the country in the 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup.
"I heard we pulled out, then someone made sure we're going so I'm happy to hear that," Standhardinger said.
Moments before Game 5, the PBA along with officials from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and Rain or Shine staff held a joint press conference announcing the national federation's reversal. The group has now made a final commitment to send a team to the quadrennial meet with the Elasto Painters fielding six of its players Gabe Norwood, Raymond Almazan, Chris Tiu, Beau Belga, Maverick Ahanmisi, and James Yap.
Standhardinger also joins Magnolia's Paul Lee, Poy Erram of Blackwater Elite, GlobalPort's Stanley Pringle, Don Trollano of TNT KaTropa and former PBA MVP Asi Taulava of NLEX, and Ricci Rivero and Kobe Paras in the 14-man pool that will be trimmed to 12 members prior to the start of the competition.
Standhardinger, who will now be playing under his third national team coach after Chot Reyes and Jong Uichico (both using the Dribble Drive system), is intrigued at the prospect of learning from Guiao, a seven-time PBA champion, and a former national coach.
"I'm excited to see what the playing style of this coach is and what system he's gonna bring to hopefully be successful," Standhardinger said ahead of the new national team's first practice session on Monday (August 6th). "I hope that we can go all out and obviously make the country proud."
The Philippines is looking to improve on its seventh-place finish in the 2014 Asiad in Incheon, Korea. Standhardinger still has the PBA Finals to complete.
"I hope that I can still focus on the (PBA) Finals and then join the team," Standhardinger said. "For me, obviously, the first priority is to try to win the Finals. That's very important for me, it's very important for San Miguel. And then I can completely focus on getting some victories in the Asian Games."
While the final roster has yet to be determined, the prospect of seeing Standhardinger team up with the rim-protecting Erram, the burly Belga and the grizzled Taulava makes for some interesting combinations.
Standhardinger has proven that he can slide to the small forward position for the Beermen. His length and agility will be much needed as the competition commences on August 14.
If the PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals go the full seven games, Standhardinger will be able to join the squad on August 11. The team leaves for Jakarta on the same day.