Oliver admits Batang Gilas lacks ‘camaraderie’ but ready for SEABA U16
MANILA, Philippines – The main weapons: height and speed.
With only a few days, the Batang Gilas is already maximizing its time as it amps up for the Southeast Asian Basketball Association Under-16 tournament which begins on Sunday, May 14 at the Araneta Coliseum.
Batang Gilas head coach Michael Oliver admits a few more things need to be adjusted but is optimistic primarily because of the pool of players lined-up in this year’s SEABA tourney.
“We are lucky to have big guys on the team and that we have those kinds of heights in the U16,” said coach Oliver in an interview with Rappler.
The 6-foot-11 Kai Sotto and 6-foot-8 Geo Chiu are both considered as assets in the squad since coach Oliver will be running transition plays so these big men are expected to help through dominating the boards.
“It will be a good advantage for us because we have Kai and Geo. We need to be strong in terms of getting rebounds,” said coach Oliver.
Though the current Batang Gilas squad has the tallest players to compete in the SEABA tournament so far, coach Oliver is sure of parading what Filipino players are best at: speed.
“Definitely, we’ll be utilizing our guards in terms of speed because that’s been one of our advantages when competing in international tournaments ever since,” coach Oliver, who also spearheaded the 2015 and 2016 Batang Gilas, said.
The former FEU Tamaraw Oliver said the Batang Gilas program started in the third week of January but the lineup was only completed last April.
Skill set is not a problem for the Team Pilipinas U16 as the team is overflowing with talented players. Rather, the squad is having difficulties of pulling everything off as a “team.”
“The disadvantage we have right now is the camaraderie,” explained coach Oliver. “They are still getting to know each other inside and outside the court but we joined tournaments like the Fr. Martin Cup to make them feel they’re already a team.”
Since coach Oliver is confident about the individuality of his players, he said the starting lineup will eventually change from time to time depending on their opponent.
“I still don’t have a solid first 5 list and I think that will probably change because we want to give them all a chance. If it’s possible to give them all an opportunity as a starter, then we’ll do that,” shared coach Oliver.
When asked who is coach Oliver expecting to perform well in SEABA, he answered, “Kai (Sotto). We’re hoping him to dominate the shaded area.”
Though a lot has improved in the past months, coach Oliver doesn’t want to be complacent and still thinks his team needs more work.
“We can’t really say we’re 100% ready but if we’ll range it, we’re at 90% already,” coach Oliver said. “Hopefully, all we practiced and prepared for will be put into actions every game.”
Coach Oliver also doesn’t want his boys to feel lax and always reminds them to give their best in every game.
“We are expecting every opponent in SEABA to be strong so we won’t be surprised or caught off guard. I always tell them (Batang Gila) to give their 100% during game time,” said coach Oliver.
As a veteran coach, Oliver is ecstatic to have seen the improvements of the basketball program for the youth in the Philippines.
“The country’s basketball program is progressing. Most organizers are starting in a very young age, there are even leagues for 10 years old kids. It’s really getting better and better and because of this, the Batang Gilas Program will benefit all the more,” shared coach Oliver.
The Batang Gilas mentor also encouraged Filipinos to watch the Batang Gilas as these kids also need to the most important reinforcements—supporters—in order to bag the championship.
“We need your (Filipinos) prayers that hopefully this will be a successful tournament, that we’ll win and there will be no injuries. We also hope they could come and watch so the kids will also be pumped up to give their best,” said coach Oliver. –Rappler.com