DUBAI - Beau Belga knows that being the only current PBA player in the roster for Mighty Sports Philippines comes with certain responsibilities. Known for his basketball smarts, physical defense, and ability to do things a man his size should not be able to do, he's a returning member of team because the head coach Charles Tiu and assistant coach TY Tang know exactly what he brings to the table.
While there are more talented players in Mighty Sports Philippines including former NBA players Andray Blatche and Renaldo Balkman and up-and-coming stars such as Thirdy Ravena and Dave Ildefonso, it was Belga who got the loudest cheers from the predominantly Filipino crowd that showed up Thursday night at the Shabab Al Ahli Club.
Bursts of "BELGA" or "EXTRA RICE" would often echo in the arena and the fans would react to everything that he does on the floor.
Belga finished the game with two points, seven rebounds, and two assists in 12 minutes on the floor but he knows his impact in the team goes beyond the numbers.
"Hindi ka pwedeng maging pasaway dito. Kailangan ako mismo ayusin ko yung sarili ko," Belga said after the win. "Kapag ako nagpakita ng hindi maganda, mahihirapan yung coaching staff na ma-control yung team namin. Kailangan kong i-guide itong mga ito kasi ako na yung matanda dito aside from Joseph (Yeo)."
From the moment he checked into the game, Belga's experience was obvious. He was one of the players tasked to slow down the Lebanese legend Fady El Khatib who was playing as an import for UAE. When a teammate missed out on his defensive coverage, Belga was quick to remind him of the rules. When Juan Gomez de Liaño got frustrated after getting tagged with a touch foul late in the opening period, Belga pulled him aside and told him to stop giving the referees opportunities to blow their whistles, especially because they were in penalty already.
"Ganun naman ako kahit sa PBA e," Belga said. "Gusto kong tinutulungan yung mga kasama ko. Pag may nakikita akong pwedeng gawin, pag may nakikita akong pwedeng ma-improve, sinasabi ko, parang sa Rain or Shine rin."
"Ang nawala lang siguro dito yung pagka reklamador ko kasi hindi naman ako kilala ng mga ito e. Hindi naman ako papansinin."
Even though Belga was all-business on the court, he still maintains his light mood off it, often joking around with the younger players. Belga is often seen having a laugh with his roommate for this trip, Isaac Go, who was the first player selected in the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft. Between the anecdotes and the funny stories though, Belga makes it a point to share his knowledge perhaps sensing that the mild-mannered Go needs a little bit of bad boy Belga in him.
Belga has often represented the country in different basketball tournaments all over the region. He was the 13th man for Gilas Pilipinas when they won the silver medal in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships. He played in the 2018 Asian Games and has played for Mighty Sports Philippines before. For the 33-year-old big man, the feeling never gets old.
"Masarap talaga maglaro sa mga ganito kasi kahit malayo ka sa bayan mo pero puro Pinoy yung naka-paikot sayo. 'Yung crowd kasama mo sa buong laro," he said.
Belga knows that he's now on the back-end of his career and although he still has a lot of basketball to play in the PBA, the opportunities to play outside the country will be harder to come by. Still, he wants to impart the knowledge he has learned through the years, similar to the role of his fellow veteran Marc Pingris, who was added to the Gilas Pilipinas Men pool recently at 38 years of age.
"Gusto ko mapulot nila sa akin yung mentality na hindi nag-gi-give-up. Yung mga bagito dito, most of these guys are going to be part of the national team natin. Kailangan silang sabihan kung ano yung ma-e-encounter nila in the future," Belga said. "Dapat dito malaman na nila agad na hindi madali yung papasukin nila. Kahit papano, sana may matutunan sila sa akin."
Mighty Sports guns for its second win against Al-Ittihad of Aleppo on Friday at 11:00 PM Philippine time. The game will be shown live on One Sports with livestream on ESPN5's digital platforms.