James Yap may no longer be a spring chicken, but his competitive juice remains high as he prepares to represent the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games starting Aug. 16 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
At 36, Yap admitted he was surprised to be included by national coach Yeng Guiao in the Philippine quintet comprised of six members from Rain or Shine, along with several additions from other PBA squads.
But the 6-foot-2 guard is taking his upcoming stint with the national squad as a challenge as he tries to help the country improve on the seventh-place finish registered by Gilas Pilipinas four years ago in Incheon, South Korea.
Before starting team practice with Rain or Shine, Yap, nicknamed "Big Game James," said he's been working on his 3-point shooting.
"Before practice, I take about 200 shots because when it comes to playing for the national team, outside shooting is a very important tool considering that we have very tall opponents, so till now, that's what I'm working on in my game," Yap told ESPN5 in Filipino on Friday night shortly after the Philippine team's practice at the Meralco gym.
The pride of Escalante, Negros Occidental said having played for coach Yeng Guiao back in the 2009 FIBA Asia men's championships, he knows the importance of being ready anytime he gets a kickout pass from a teammate.
"We all know coach Yeng, for him, if you're open, you need to shoot it," he said. "Otherwise, you'll get an earful from him if you hesitate, that's why it's better to be ready for the pass."
The two-time PBA Most Valuable Player knows expectations are high for the national team at the quadrennial games in Indonesia. But he has reminded teammates to focus on preparation and developing team chemistry.
"I told them that as far as expectations from fans is concerned, let's not think about that anymore because the more we think about what they say or expect, the more we'll get pressured," he said. "Instead, we'll just give 110 percent of our effort inside the court and whatever happens, whether we win or lose, the important thing is we gave everything we've got for the country."
The national squad leaves on Sunday evening for Indonesia. The team makes its debut in the Asiad on August 16 at 11 a.m. Manila time, before tangling with powerhouse China on August 21 at 5 p.m.
Aside from Yap, other members of the Philippine team include Rain or Shine players Chris Tiu, Gabe Norwood, Maverick Ahanmisi, Beau Belga and Raymond Almazan, along with Magnolia's Paul Lee, San Miguel slotman Christian Standhardinger, Blackwater center JP Erram, NorthPort guard Stanley Pringle and NLEX's Asi Taulava.
Filipino-American Jordan Clarkson, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA, is also part of the 12-man lineup.