Gabe Norwood allayed worries of a long absence as he continues to recover from a groin injury he sustained in Gilas Pilipinas' camp in Spain last week.
The forward did not participate in half-court and full-court scrimmages in the team's first two practices back at the Meralco Gym, but he assured that his condition has improved ever since they returned to the country.
"It's really just precautionary now. Probably in the next day or two I'll be back in the five-on-five and I should be good to go for the tune-up games and everything else moving forward," he said.
Durability has always been one of Norwood's best traits, but the injury that he sustained in their first practice game in Spain put him in a rare position of not suiting up for Gilas. He missed both games against Congo and Ivory Coast in the Torneo de Malaga.
"It was a different training camp for me. First time ever really being able to sit out. I think I've only missed three or four games even in the PBA my whole career," he said.
That did not mean it was a lost camp for Norwood, who said his work with the coaching staff on the bench helped him deal with what could be improved on the court from a different point of view.
"Just tried to learn as much as I could, be along with the coaching staff as much as I could in terms of just things we could work on. It was actually good for me to see the game from a different angle. I think I was able to soak in as much as I could, look at everyone's strengths and weaknesses from a different vantage point," said Norwood.
Gilas could certainly gain a lot from seeing those improvements after a tough loss to Congo in the first game of the pocket tournament deprived them of a shot at measuring themselves against world no. 2 Spain.
"It hurts, naturally. Just out of the excitement, pure excitement. We wanted to compete against the best, and we put ourselves in a situation where that didn't happen," said Norwood. "We actually wanted to go out and play Spain. I think everybody was anticipating that. We were, especially the way we performed versus Ivory Coast and Congo before the actual tournament started."
Norwood, though, thought that the alternatives to a matchup against the Spaniards were still good simulations of what Gilas would be expecting in Group D of the FIBA World Cup.
"I think it was a great experience. It was humbling," described Norwood. "Congo and Ivory Coast both posed great opponents. Great teams, athletic, and it's something we're going to see whether it's Angola or Italy or Serbia. They're all going to be bigger, faster and probably stronger than us as well."
"[A]t the end of the day, those were growing the pains we had to get through. We want to go through them earlier than later moving forward," he added.
The national team will have one more opportunity to see how they fare against high-level competition when they take on the Adelaide 36ers in two goodwill games on August 23 and 25.
"I don't know much about the club that's coming in terms of who they'll have, who's with the national team, if they'll be at full strength as well. But at the end of the day we just gotta find a way to get two wins and get better in getting ready for China," the forward said.
Those games, for Norwood, should be a barometer that Gilas can use to determine whether or not the two countries have really swept things under the rug more than a year after the national team's brawl with the Australian Boomers in the World Cup qualifiers.
"At the end of the day, we're all men. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror. Whether we're out there or not, new to the team or not, we have a country to carry and present ourselves to the entire world," he said. "This is a great opportunity for both countries to come together, compete at a high level, put everything they can on the court and show respect at the same time."