Throughout a decorated PBA career that has spanned 12 seasons with Rain or Shine and spawned two titles and 12 All-Star appearances, two certain stretches stand out for Gabe Norwood.
Norwood talked to ESPN5.com about his most impressive individual season during the 2009-10 campaign with the Elasto Painters, and his favorite stretch of team basketball -- one where his squad made the playoffs for 12 straight conferences, reached the finals six times and won a pair of championships.
What's been your your favorite season in the PBA so far?
The season that led to our first championship (2012 Governors' Cup). I think we bounced back to win it all after missing the playoffs the conference before.
Each season, and conference for that matter, is special. But that window where we made it to at least 10 straight semifinals was a memorable run. Our chemistry was great and going to practice was as much fun as the games.
Rain or Shine made nine straight semifinals appearances starting from the 2013 Governors' Cup. After winning the title a year before, the team made the finals and quarterfinals of the 2013-13 Philippine and Commissioner's Cup, respectively.
How did it feel getting over the hump and helping the franchise win its first ever title?
It was a great feeling. Knowing how successful the company was in the amateur ranks made it that much better to give our management a title at the pro level.
Did you feel something special was brewing at the start of that conference?
I knew our import, Jamelle Cornley, from the States. I knew what type of competitor he was and how he would be a perfect fit for our team. Jamelle, combined with our hunger to make up for the disappointing conference before, was the perfect mix.
Did anything about your approach change after winning the first title?
I think everyone settled in and saw that we had a system and the tools to compete with anyone. And we always had enough to find a way to win on any given night.
What do you remember about the 2009-10 season?
Wild to think that the 2009-10 season was a decade ago, but it is one that stands out for me. I remember having a lot of confidence after my rookie year. Me, Sol Mercado, and TY Tang were all drafted together and had great chemistry along with the rest of our young core.
That year, you made the All-Star and All-Defensive Teams, won the All-Star Game MVP and became Defensive Player of the Year. Did you personally feel that things really clicked that season?
At the time, I was just enjoying the game and ultimately wanted to win every time we stepped on the court. Coach Caloy (Garcia) put a lot of trust in me from the beginning and put me in great situations to use my skills. Having one of my closests friends (Sol Mercado) on the team made that season that much more fun.
The All-Star MVP award was pretty special because it was unexpected. I didn't go into the game with any aspirations but just wanted to entertain the fans and put on a show.
After that season, I really felt like I was hitting my stride and gained a lot of confidence in my game and understood the work that had to be put in to achieve goals.
Norwood averaged 13.8 points (42% FG), 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals in almost 38 minutes per game in the 2009-10 season.
You didn't exactly replicate those numbers, but you had more team success down the road as evidenced by those two titles. Was there a certain trade-off there?
At the root of it, I was always driven more by team success over any individual accolades. So I don't think "trade-off" would be the term, but sacrifices were definitely made. Coach Caloy and Coach Yeng (Guiao) had, at that time, different approaches to playing time and that was an adjustment for me after being a leader in minutes played in my first two seasons. But once I got my rhythm under Coach Yeng's system, our team's chemistry was undeniable and the wins started rolling in.