After learning that Kai Sotto would be unable to join Mighty Sports Philippines in the Dubai International Basketball Championship, head coach Charles Tiu reached out to Isaac Go.
Even though he knew that Andray Blatche and Renaldo Balkman would be playing most of the minutes at the center and power forward positions, there was a need for another big outside of Beau Belga just to give the two NBA veterans a breather.
Go had to make a choice -- join the team or push forward with a Japan trip alongside the rest of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, a reward for winning the UAAP basketball championship.
"There'll always be a part of me that wishes I could have joined the trip with them because it will probably be the last time I'll get to see them as a whole group," said Go.
Perhaps what made the decision a little easier for Go was that his former Ateneo teammate Thirdy Ravena and their assistant coach Dean Castano were also missing the trip to join Mighty Sports Philippines.
The first challenge for Go, though, was how to join a team that already had practices for a couple of weeks without him.
"It was difficult. Chemistry is something that takes time to build," he said. "However, when you have a group of guys who already bought in to what coach Charles and Mighty Sports wanted to do, then it makes it easier. They welcomed me with open arms."
Seeing the Instagram stories of his fellow Blue Eagles bummed him out a bit, but the championship they won in Dubai was more than enough to help him get over it. However, Go knows that more than the title, what's important to him were the lessons he learned, specifically going up against Blatche and Balkman in practice.
"It showed me a whole new level that I have to get to. Going up against Ange (Kouame) everyday in practice helped me prepare for them, but they're just on another stage that I'll have to try and reach," Go said. "It's experience that I know will help me out, especially because I'll be a member of Gilas. These guys have international experience and made it to the NBA, going up against them in practice was both eye-opening and inspiring for me."
Aside from the two, Go also experienced what it's like to take on some of the best big men in the region. He had to guard the legendary Fadi El-Khatib and then also had to face off against arguably the best big man in Lebanon right now in Ali Haidar.
Guiding him through the experience was his roommate, Beau Belga.
"Anong naturo sa akin ni Kuya Beau? Puro kalokohan," Go joked. "Kuya Beau taught me lessons about being a professional. He's a decorated PBA player and also played for Gilas, but he didn't mind that I played more minutes here. When he saw my confidence was down, he'd be the first to tell me to trust my shot and keep shooting when I'm open. He's a great locker room guy, helping us younger players."
Go said that lessons in physicality will remain between the two of them, but he knows Belga only wants the best for him, especially since he's part of the Gilas Pilipinas Men program.
"These part few days, playing in front of the Filipino crowd, it was amazing," said Go. "I loved the support they gave us and I want them to know that they were as much a part of this championship as much as anyone on the team."