Alaska big man Vic Manuel had no inkling that he'd be included in Tim Cone's 15-man Gilas Pilipinas pool for the country's hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
"I'm thankful that he called me up. I have no words. I really did not expect that he'd call me up. I'll just have to repay the trust that he's given me," he admitted.
The 32-year-old definitely raised a few eyebrows after getting a surprise call-up from SEAG Gilas coach Tim Cone last week. But one wouldn't be able to say that it's not a justified decision as the coach, who admitted Manuel was one of his personal choices, knows exactly what the bruiser can bring to the table.
"I'm excited about Vic because I think Vic would be a dominant player in the Southeast Asian level. He'd be able to take guys in. He's got that sweet jumpshot. That's the reason why we put him there. He's tough-minded and he can intimidate people," he said in a press conference last Thursday.
Manuel -- who is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds so far for Alaska in the PBA Governors' Cup -- and his physical but effective brand of basketball is just what Cone thinks the Philippines will need at this level of international play.
"I think he'll do really well in that level of play. Whether he can go out and bang on (Nikola) Jokic and Serbia, that's a different question but he can go out and bang in Southeast Asia. He can really be effective. That's what we're looking for right now. We're not looking for the big names. We're looking for guys who we think are gonna be particularly effective in this kind of tournament," he explained.
Aces head coach Jeff Cariaso shared Cone's sentiments and thinks Manuel will thrive in that environment.
"First of all I wanna say I'm really proud of Vic for this achievement. I think what coach Tim sees in him is the ability to be a threat in the post down low. I think Vic is deserving of the spot. I think he's someone who's worked hard," Cariaso noted. "Very proud of him, and I know he's gonna do well."
Manuel, for his part, is just ready and willing to prove both coaches right in their assessments.
"I'm excited, of course. Nervous because it's my first time," he said. "I'll double the effort that I give in Alaska when I get there. I have to show that I'm deserving to play there. I have to show that I'm really 100 percent in for the country," added Manuel.