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17 February, 2020
20 June, 2021
10 Gabe Norwood (PHI)
31/05/2021
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Gabe Norwood talks about Gilas and Asia Cup Qualifiers predictions

MANILA (Philippines) - Gabe Norwood has seen and been through a lot in the FIBA Asia Cup. After seeing action for the first time in a "Gilas" jersey back in 2007, Norwood has become one of the featured faces of the national team program ever since.

"There’s nothing like it," he said in an interview on The Gilas Zone.

"Japan and China are really, really just powerful programs and they’re very consistent so I like to think they have the advantage." - Gabe Norwood

 "To represent the flag, family, the country, friends, everything, it’s unbelievable just for the love of the game. It’s not like in other parts of the world where you have soccer or American football or rugby, basketball is the sport outside of Manny [Pacquiao] fighting, it’s basketball. There’s nothing like it."

"I think we travel well. I think there’s Filipinos everywhere in the world, so at any given Asian city, we’re well represented and well supported so you always feel like you’re at home."

For the upcoming remaining games of the Asia Cup Qualifiers, the Philippines will actually be at home as some of the games will be played in Clark City. There, the Philippines will be facing Indonesia as well as a familiar foe in Korea as a part of the competition in Group A.

"Those are two tough opponents," Norwood said. "The history between the Philippines and Korea in basketball is well documented. Indonesia seems to be getting better every single tournament, especially since the time that I was able to play back in 2007, the team has continued to get better."

"But I’m really excited for this Gilas team. I think any time you’re given ample preparation time, I think it’s huge no matter the roster. So just knowing coach Tab [Baldwin], just knowing coach Jong, coach Caloy Garcia and the rest of the coaching staff, for them to have that allotted time to really just zone in and focus game plan and prepare, I like our chances just given that one component in yourself."

Gabe was part of the famous Gilas team that beat Korea in the 2013 semi-final

The Philippines will be playing against Korea twice in these upcoming games. It is always an intense contest between these two programs as Norwood expects it to be.

"… When you play Korea, you’re not playing a match-up. You’re playing the system and how they attack you so just deliberately. Every shot is intentional. It seems like every shot is a good shot, nothing is too forced. So I think just the whole point guard position in general [is a key match-up], being able to kind of get them out of their comfort zone. Not any one player, it’s just that one position for us to be able to kind of dictate on the defensive end more than anything because once you get them off their track, I think it’s an advantage in getting defensive stops and forcing bad shots, which are hard to come by when you’re playing against Korea."

Norwood also praised coach Baldwin, highly anticipating what the seasoned head coach can do with this young Gilas team.

"… his resume is proven as well, if you look at the places he’s been, the accomplishments he’s had on the court," he said. "Even recently here in the country, what he’s done with Ateneo University. From not really high expectations in his first year to be consistently right there winning championships or in the final 4, he’s going to have a group that’s ready, that’s hungry, focused."

"If you give him time, he’s going to figure something out. He’s one of those guys, he just loves the game of basketball and he’s a student of the game and he’s going to continue to learn and adjust and put his players in great positions to succeed."

Will be interesting to see what Tab Baldwin will do with this young Gilas team

In the talk, Norwood also shared his insights on the other groups in the Asia Cup Qualifiers.

"I think the buzz around Japan is so wild right now," he said of Group B. "With the excitement around their league and the growth of the game there in Japan, it’s something to see."

"But at the end of the day, China’s always tough. They’re always going to be there in terms of talent level. There’s the level of their own league at home, that they’re playing against some of the best players in the region and internationally."

"Chinese Taipei continues to get better as well. Their talents, it seems like it’s a lot of the guys that have been around since I was playing. Chinese Taipei has two teams in the Jones Cup, that B team seems like the A team now, so they have chemistry and they’ve won some big games. They beat China here [in Manila] in the Asia Cup so I’m sure they’re not going to walk around with that same intimidation that they had before."

"But for me to answer the question, I think it’s tough. Japan and China are really, really just powerful programs and they’re very consistent so I like to think they have the advantage."

Gabe thinks the buzz is wild around Japan right now

Looking over at Group C, Norwood talks a bit about Guam where he has a close friend suiting up for the national team.

"… Guam is a team that I haven’t gone up against. I was just able to watch them in these last couple of windows. Having a close friend, having Jericho Cruz, out there - my former teammate - representing Guam, just talking to him about the team and how they get along with one another, really just watching their athleticism, they have just some really talented guys on that squad."

"Duncan [Reid] and Hong Kong, he reminds me kind of like the Tim Duncan/Boris Diaw type of high IQ guy. But at the end of the day, I think Guam with their athleticism, could win out just off of that pace and tempo that they can play with and dictate."

 

Over in the highly competitive Group C, Norwood shared his thoughts on who would come out ahead.

"Definitely, I’d have to go with Iran just off of my own personal experiences that I’ve had, even in this past World Cup in 2019," he said. "We ended up competing against them as well and seeing their younger talent, the two bigs that they brought down to the World Cup, both came out and fit in perfectly in the system. It was like Oshin [Sahakian] was out and they just filled in two guys that played just like him. Credit to their program and how they’ve just prepared their guys for these competitions for these big tournaments."

"Outside of Iran, Syria’s always up there in terms of how they compete. Talent is always kind of hit or miss but they’ve always played super hard. They’re going to push you to the limit."

Norwood also mentioned Qatar and Saudi Arabia as teams that can fiercely compete, "but just in terms of experience in pressure situations, I give the nod to the other teams."

 

Over in Group F, Norwood highlighted the two top-seeded teams in the Group, Jordan and Kazakhstan.

"I think Jordan is just another staple," he added. "It seems like they are always right there no matter who is calling the shots as head coach or who is running the point if it isn’t Sam Daghles or anybody. They come out and they get the most out of their players in every single tournament so I like to think Jordan has a good chance."

"Kazakhstan is another team that plays fearless. Before, back in the day, it was one of those games where you kind of chalked up and everybody got to play and you see what happens. But their confidence level, they pushed us and we almost didn’t qualify for the last World Cup playing there in Kazakhstan in a close game. But I like what they’ve been doing. I like how they’ve expanded their game."

 

As a seasoned vet sharing his insights on Asia Cup competition, Norwood couldn’t help but reminisce his own legendary battles over the years against the greats.

"I’m going to miss just the battles with Fadi [El Khatib] and Samad [Nikkah Bahrami]. Those are the two guys that kept me up at night sometimes. Those are games that are like ‘Man, I gotta be ready, I gotta be locked in!’."

"And those are guys that I still follow. We message each other and kind of check in. But as much as it is friendship, it’s competition and we want to win, we want to represent our countries and for our families and friends. Those are the two guys, probably at the top of my list, definitely those two stand out more, just because of the battles that we have had."

However, it was another particular match-up in the Asia Cup that Norwood sees as a significant milestone in his basketball journey.

"I think honestly outside of the Korea game [in Asia Cup 2013] and that whole experience, it was probably the game against Qatar, going up against Jarvis Hayes."


Jarvis Hayes & Gabe Norwood - Philippines vs Qatar (FIBA Asia Cup 2013)

"I grew up in the States, so I’m a huge college basketball fan. I was watching Jarvis when he was in college, I was in college outside of DC when he was with the Wizards. So I was, not so much as in awe, but for him after the game to say the things that he said - he basically put me in the spot that I’m at. Kind of just saying how well I defended and things like that. That really kind of stamped for me, personally, the work that I put in and my role. That’s probably the one. That’s a game which kind of sticks out for me in terms of my personal career and my personal journey as a player."

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