With Gilas-Pilipinas down by 16 points at the 3:47 mark of the fourth quarter, head coach Chot Reyes decided to give the big man from De La Salle University his international debut. A loose ball foul on June Mar Fajardo allowed Reyes to shuffle his players as he brought Abu Tratter and Allein Maliksi in for Carl Bryan Cruz and Matthew Wright during the dead ball situation.
During the succeeding play, Tratter was almost called for a five-second violation in the inbound pass but safely gave it to Maliksi who came running down from the other end of the court to receive the ball as the full-court press of Australia denied point guard Kevin Alas. After taking a couple of dribbles, Maliksi handed the ball to Alas who immediately crossed the half-court line and went straight near the right corner. Tratter, who was stationed on the right corner, moved to the right wing to give space for Alas. The point guard recognized the big man’s movement off the ball and gave a bounce pass to Tratter. The former Green Archer performed a left-handed dribble to get inside the arc and quickly pulled-up for a jumper near the elbow.
“When I got into the game, I had the opportunity. The guy sagged-off of me, I’ve been working on my 15-footers for the longest time now, it sank, swoosh. Definitely, God was on my side for that one,” Tratter said a few weeks after converting his first ever points on the international stage.
Call-up against Australia
After being named as one of the 23 prospects that are in contention to make the final roster for the Gilas team that will compete in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Tratter’s trajectory towards greatness took another boost as he was included in the 12-man line-up that challenged Australia last February 22 in Melbourne. “I think for sure it was a blessing but I look at that as an opportunity to learn from the veterans and be able to feel how it feels to be on the court with them on a live game, so I was very surprised but at the same time I wanted to take something from them.”
Despite losing that game, 84-68, the Philippines remained in second place behind the undefeated Australia in Group B of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian-Qualifiers. Chinese-Taipei and Japan sit at third and fourth place respectively, with the latter still winless after four games.
“I think that playing against Australia was a learning experience also. Just seeing how fast-paced international ball is and seeing how smart the players were. Unfortunately, we lost. The surprising thing is that Australia played so calm and relaxed. They executed a lot of plays even from the get go of the game but it surprises me that it’s just their ‘C-team’ that we just played.”
The Filipino-American who was born in Laguna, was not able to contain his excitement once the team landed in Australia as he promptly rushed out of the airplane thinking he got everything in check. A few minutes later, realizing his passport was not in his hand, he jolted back to the airplane but it was closing so he wasn’t able to get it. He then double-checked his bag and was relieved to find it there. “Rookie mistake,” Tratter shared with a wide smile on his face.
Aside from all the fun and games that he experienced while bonding with his teammates in another country, Tratter still performed rookie duties since he was the newest member of the Gilas team. The big man from La Salle said that he would even volunteer sometimes to carry the suitcases of some of his teammates or carry the basketballs of the team. “I kinda enjoyed it, it wasn’t too hard.”
Tratter described his overall experience as fun since it was his first time being in Australia. “I think that also being with the team, it gave me some kind of a good feeling of being able to learn how they think, how they take their rest or their rehab in between games or what do they talk about on the way incoming to the game. I think it was a very very eye opening experience.”
The former Green Archer did not feature in their next game three days later against Japan due to the return of some of the players from injury. Jayson Castro missed the Australia game because of an ankle injury while Troy Rosario recovered just in time for the clash against the Japanese rivals, which was held here in the Philippines. When the news broke to Tratter, he shared that he wasn’t that mad about Reyes’ decision to drop him since he was aware of what was going on.
“He [Rosario] wasn’t injured anymore and I saw that as an opportunity to show love to team off the court, it was fun. It’s not a lot of time that I go to MOA [Mall of Asia Arena] and I watch a game, I’m part of the team but I’m watching. It was fun.”
When asked if he is looking forward to playing with Gilas in the third window of the qualifiers, which will happen on June 29 and July 2 later this year, Tratter simply said he is looking forward to practicing with the team in the future and nothing much on making the final roster for the last two games of the qualifiers.
“Of course I wanna be in the line-up but right now I’m looking forward to practicing with Gilas again,” Tratter ended.