MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine basketball youth team hopes to reedem the country in the international stage after a wild month that saw Gilas Pilipinas figure in a brawl with Australia, get slapped by FIBA with hefty fines and suspensions, and withdraw from the 2018 Asian Games.
Batang Gilas vies to make the country proud as it shoots for a world berth in the FIBA Asia Under-18 Championship in Nonthaburi, Thailand from August 5 to 11.
But Dave Ildefonso – the son of PBA legend and National University assistant coach Danny – isn’t sweating the pressure as Philippine basketball tries to rebuild its image.
“There’s not much pressure really,” said the 6-foot-4 Ildefonso. “But as one of the more mature players [age-wise] on the team, I think we’re also a part of the redeeming process and it’s really a great help for the Filipino basketball fans if we’re able to pull this off.”
With Ildefonso manning the frontcourt with 7-foot-1 Kai Sotto and 6-foot-10 AJ Edu, and 6-foot-1 Dalph Panopio controlling the perimeter, the tall and talented national youth team targets the country’s first U19 World Cup berth in 39 years. (READ: FIBA Asia U18: Key additions Edu, Panopio boost Batang Gilas bid)
Team backer Ronald Mascariñas said the country needs to move forward after a forgettable Gilas Pilipinas campaign last July.
Not only did a majority of the Gilas Pilipinas team get suspended after the infamous July 2 brawl with Australia, but the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) also followed this up by withdrawing the country’s participation in the 2018 Asian Games, citing an inability to form a competitive team.
“[You] have great responsibility on your shoulders because we need to regain the motivation of the country, with what happened in the brawl against Australia,” Mascariñas told the players during the sendoff hosted by team backer Chooks-to-Go in Ortigas on Thursday night, August 2.
“If you do well and qualify for the FIBA World Cup, hopefully our grieving countrymen, yung mga nagluluksa nating mga basketball fans, baka maghilom yung sugat nila.”
(If you do well and qualify for the FIBA World Cup, it will hopefully heal the wounds of our grieving basketball fans.)
“With what happened doon sa withdrawal natin doon sa Asian Games, may kapalit na tayo,” he added.
(With what happened regarding our withdrawal from the Asian Games, we already have a replacement.)
Last July, Batang Gilas recorded its best World Cup finish at 13th place in the Under-17 competition. (READ: Batang Gilas nabs record-high World Cup finish)
“We expect them to be the hardest working team out there – to give their very best, to lay their hearts on the line each game, each possession,” said Batang Gilas coach Josh Reyes. “No matter what the scoreboard would say after each game, I believe they will never lose if they do that.”
Rounding out the Batang Gilas roster are Raven Cortez, Gerry Abadiano, Geoff Chiu, Rhayyan Amsali, Migz Oczon, Joshua Ramirez, Bismarck Lina and Xyrus Torres. – Rappler.com
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