Philippine basketball

LeBron Lopez, Caelum Harris to lead Gilas U-18, seen as future ‘mainstays’

JR Isaga
LeBron Lopez, Caelum Harris to lead Gilas U-18, seen as future ‘mainstays’

A NEW HOPE. LeBron Lopez is expected to lead the Gilas Pilipinas Under-18 program along with Caelum Harris.

FIBA

'We want them to get into the swing of things very quickly, to train them together with the men’s team as much as possible, and hopefully they can play, if they can make it,' says coach Chot Reyes of Gilas teen prospects LeBron Lopez and Caelum Harris

MANILA, Philippines – Since his reappointment as Gilas Pilipinas head coach, Chot Reyes has been mapping out the fragile, but promising future of the national team.

Shortly after the conclusion of the second window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asia qualifiers, the multi-titled yet heavily scrutinized tactician laid out a draft of his plans for Gilas for the year and beyond, and singled out two prospects who could soon get more exposure with the national team: LeBron Lopez and Caelum Harris.

“We’re bringing Caelum in to jumpstart the [Under-18] program. We’re looking at him and LeBron Lopez to be the mainstays of that program,” Reyes said on Playitright TV. “Whether they will play all events all the way to 2023 remains to be seen. There are a lot of factors involved.”

The 17-year-old, 6-foot-7 Harris was recently tapped by Gilas in the midst of preparations for the recent FIBA window in Manila. Meanwhile, Lopez was included in the final pool for that window, but was ultimately not activated for either of the team’s two games.

Still, the first few steps of integration have been there for the two young guns, and Reyes is hoping to fast-track their progress by having them train with the big boys of Gilas, not just with U-18.

“We want them to get into the swing of things very quickly, to train them together with the men’s team as much as possible, and hopefully they can play, if they can make it,” he said.

“Maybe they can play in the Southeast Asian Games, maybe they can play in the other windows. But as for being able to play in the World Cup in 2023, that remains to be seen as well because there are no locks for 2023.”

Back in 2018, Reyes put out a “23 for 2023” list consisting the country’s top prospects at the time. So far, numerous candidates have excelled in their growth, and continued dedicating their time for the national team like Dwight Ramos, Thirdy Ravena, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Kai Sotto, and Robert Bolick.

Lopez and Harris are now expected to carve out a similar path for themselves with consistent exposure to international competition. While they are not yet shoo-ins for any Gilas teams above U-18, time is still very much on their side for future consideration.

“We are looking at [Caelum] and LeBron to lead the youth we are developing,” Reyes said. “We’re developing plans for U-16, U-18, cadets, the men’s – this is a long-term thing we’re trying to put together.”

“Will they make the final lineups? That’s another question. But are they candidates? Yes, definitely.” – with a report from Joaquin Quesada/Rappler.com