Gabe Norwood fondly remembers the first time he represented the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games back in 2007, when players from the now-defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL) made up the core that played in Thailand.
"It was a different format. Almost all of us were in the PBL at that time - myself, Jayson, Beau. I think I was back with Harbour Centre at that time. It was a good time," Norwood shared. "We didn't play with much pressure. I think we won every game by about 30 points at that time. It was a good experience."
After 12 years and many more tours of duty for the national team, Norwood will be watching from afar as the Philippines is set to send a loaded contingent for this year's edition of the biennial meet which will be hosted here.
With arguably some of the PBA's best players flanking head coach Tim Cone's six-man Ginebra nucleus, Norwood is pretty optimistic that the Philippines will put on a show in December.
"It's the best of the best. At the end of the day, we're sending in PBA players and guys who are proven in this league -- champions. Whether it's Chris Ross or LA (Tenorio) or Scottie (Thompson), all the way across the board, you have guys who have won it at the highest level here in the Philippines. It should be a good outcome," he noted.
The 2019 SEA Games would have presented the 34-year-old forward an opportunity to end his Gilas Pilipinas career on a high note. But despite failing to get called up and make his return to the meet for the first time in over a decade, Norwood expressed no regret.
"Naturally, everybody wants to be there. You know what I mean? But at the same time, it's a great opportunity for guys who haven't been able to represent the country, especially here on home turf," he said.
The long-time Gilas captain just has one piece of advice for prospective standouts who will eventually represent the Philippines against the rest of Southeast Asia.
"I've been lucky enough to play in the windows, play in the qualifiers and have that experience. I hope they all cherish it and take it seriously and go from there," Norwood imparted.