From a virtual unknown, Jamie Malonzo now hopes to make another dream come true by representing Gilas Pilipinas

In the span of three years, Jamie Malonzo has gone from a virtual unknown to a prospect who could just play a pivotal role in revitalising the fortunes of Gilas Pilipinas. PBA Media Bureau

In three years, Jamie Malonzo went from virtual unknown to part of the hope for the improvement of Gilas Pilipinas.

The 6-foot-6 high-flyer -- once a name who elicited questions of "who?!" upon his commitment to go one-and-done for the La Salle Green Archers in 2019 -- is now cleared to suit up for the national team. Clearance is but the first step, though. An invite to camp, an inclusion into the lineup, and then a first time officially playing for Philippines comes after.

Whatever happens from here on out, though, it was a long time coming, it was a long-held wish, it was a long wait now over.

"This was, for sure, a dream of mine," he shared over the phone, nearly a month after news broke that he has been confirmed to be eligible as a local player for Gilas. "It's always been in my head since I was playing back home (in the United States). Now, I've been cleared, but it's just the first step. Getting on the team is another."

As it turns out, the Filipino-American who grew up in Seattle was hard at work getting his FIBA clearance from the moment he opened eyes in La Salle with an alley-oop in his UAAP debut -- a La Salle-Ateneo Blue Eagles rivalry game, no less. And at the expense of Thirdy Ravena, no less.

Now he can categorically call himself a local, a big burden has been eased from his shoulders. Now without that, perhaps he'd get to fly to even greater heights.

"I was definitely happy, for sure, but actually, it was more of relief," he expressed. "I've been at it for a long time. Thanks to God, I was I was able to get everything. Better late than never."

Just a few years after going to Philippines for the first time, Malonzo shone bright like a shooting star with the Green Archers, made an immediate impact for the NorthPort Batang Pier, and is now a legitimate candidate for a national team callup.

Looking back at the decision he had to make after finishing his degree in communications from Portland State University, he ultimately came out on the right side of history. Fortunately. Thankfully. He's doing exactly what he set out to do.

"I was actually all in with Philippines, for sure," he detailed. "After senior year, I was wondering where I was going to go; NBA D-League, Europe, whatever. But Philippines has always been in my head. I thought, if I'm not in the NBA, I wanted to do something more meaningful for myself. Instead of some random place, I wanted having family around me."

That meant settling down roots once more in his mother's native land -- the very place Maria Teresa Malonzo left behind for greener pastures around two decades ago. For the first time since her feet were last based in Pampanga, he and his mother will be on back on home soil. Back where they belong, they hoped.

"I wanted to bring mom back home, back to her family. She hasn't seen them in 20 years," he explained, talking about his maternal family, including a son and a daughter back in San Simon, around an hour away from Manila. "That's what led me to go to the Philippines."

The feeling of having done something with a bigger picture in mind made its presence felt right from his first time in Philippines. That was when he met his siblings, finally. It was more than basketball. It was a family affair. It was about life itself.

"It was a cool experience. It was a heart-warming experience. I felt like it was long overdue," he said about their first meeting, in person, and not just through video calls. "I'm very in touch with family, even before I met my brother and sister. Being so far from (where I grew up), playing basketball far from where I'm originally from. Having family to support me here means a lot."

That rekindled -- or, more accurately for Malonzo himself, newly-ignited -- fire has intensified through the years he's been in Manila. Now, kuya and ate are constants in his contests, whether for the Green Archers in the UAAP or for the Batang Pier in the PBA. Every once in a while, they even dog-sit for him. While Jamie's living alone in Quezon City with pet Louie as one and only companion, his family is all around him.

That's the fulfillment he's hoping to feel yet again once he, at long last, gets to wear the blue, red, and white. He wants to play for himself, but even more, play for his team. Which, in this case, is the Philippine national team -- representing his country and his compatriots.

"Like I've said, I went here to play for my family. Now, I want to live for meaningful moments," he detailed. "Being able to play for the country would mean everything. For me, that would mean I'm not playing for myself anymore, without a doubt. It'd be all about representing our country."

It is yet to be determined if Malonzo indeed gets that shot he has been dreaming of. Gilas' next assignment comes in about a month, when they face off against Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. It's yet to be determined if he's even on the mind of head coach Chot Reyes, who has said he and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas have "put a plan together up to August of next year [for the 2023 FIBA World Cup].

If and when he gets the call for Gilas, he vows to go all-out in fighting for the flag.

"I'm confident that anywhere and everywhere I go, I can be a contributor. I have the talent, I've always felt, and it's just about how I'm gonna be used," he remarked. "I just find ways to impact the game. And I still have so much motivation to prove my worth."

Jamie Malonzo wants more. He wants his days, his games to mean more. And the very moment he, at long last, has "Pilipinas" on the front of his jersey, he promises to give his best -- and more, much more.