MANILA, Philippines – Although there’s not a lot to praise about the recent performances of the Philippine men’s basketball team, the opposite can be said for Gilas Youth, which boasts of top-tier recruits who have the potential to make international impact.
Two of the players trying out for the Gilas Under-18 roster set to compete in the FIBA U18 Asian Championships in August are La Salle Green Hills (LSGH) standouts Ethan Alian and Seven Gagate, both of whom have one year of high school ball left before entering the collegiate ranks.
“It’s a pleasure to be part of the under-18,” Alian, a 6-foot-1 point guard, told Rappler during an exclusive interview. “Positive lang.”
“It’s good because it’s a privilege,” added Gagate, a 6-foot-8 prospect who has already caught the interested eyes of La Salle, UP, and Ateneo. “Not everyone gets to play for Gilas.”
With the Greenies still not practicing, the duo is using their Gilas training as one of the opportunities to improve their game.
“So far yung kailangan ko improve yung shooting ko, long-range,” said Alian, who believes himself to be a pass-first playmaker, but could use some scoring prowess.
(So far I need to improve on my shooting from long range.)
“Yung explosiveness ko, yung ball-handling ko, at gamit ng katawan ko,” Gagate said of what he needs to improve as he aims to play as a “modern” and mobile big man who can spread the floor.
“Kasi feel ko hindi pa ako kasing matured maglaro ng international and college players. Gusto ko bumilis, siyempre, at yung condition ko – gusto ko hindi napapagod.”
(I need to improve my explosiveness, ball-handling, and how to use my body. I feel my game isn’t as matured yet like the international and college players. I want to be faster, of course, and have better conditioning. I don’t like getting tired easily.)
There’s little doubt from the two that they will continue to rise in local player rankings in the coming years given the work ethic they’ve developed as young players.
“Ever since bata ako, gusto ko laging competitive. Doon ko nakuha,” Alian said. “Motivation na din yun. Ang sarap na feeling na player ka.”
(I’ve been competitive since I was young. That’s my motivation. It feels good to be a player.)
“Ayaw ko yung ganon lang ako,” said Gagate, candid about his personal expectations, coming from an athletic family.
His siblings have seen action in the UAAP – his older brother, Shannon, played for University of the East in men’s basketball, while his older sister, Thea, is a volleyball star for La Salle.
“Malaki ako, malaki expectations sa akin. Gusto ko ma-meet yung expectations.”
(I don’t want to settle. I’m tall, so expectations are high. I want to meet those expectations.)
He admits there are expectations from his family to be a notable player, but he welcomes the challenge with open arms.
“Siyempre gusto nila ako maging as successful as possible. Ako din. Nag wo-work ako para maging proud sila sa akin at maging proud din ako sa sarili ko.”
(My family wants me to be as successful as possible. Me too. I work hard so they’ll be proud of me, and I also want to be proud of myself.)
Back to work
With Green Archers legend Renren Ritualo tapped to coach LSGH, it would give Gagate and Alian the opportunity to learn from a four-time UAAP champion and a player whose jersey is retired by La Salle.
“If ever there’s a new system, I’m open to learn… so we get a chance to win the championship),” Alian said, while Gagate will look to Ritualo’s specialty for special tutelage.
“Gusto ko matuto sa sistema niya. Shooter siya, di ba? So yung shooting niya, gusto ko matutunan.”
(I want to learn his system. He’s a shooter, right? So I want to learn that from him.)
Long line of suitors
“Gusto ko maging UAAP [college] player talaga kasi yun yung dream ko. Gusto ko malaro yung game ko,” Gagate shared.
(I really want to be a UAAP player in college, that’s my dream. I want to show my game.)
There will be a long line of UAAP suitors for his services. La Salle, Ateneo, and UP are already interested in him. Other universities will be as well.
Gagate has roots to La Salle because of his high school and older sister. He has a friendship with UP Maroons head coach Goldwin Monteverde, who initially recruited him to Chiang Kai-shek before LSGH. He’s also eager to meet Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin because of his basketball mind.
The 6-foot-8 standout, who glides like a guard, moves like a wing, and is tall as a big, plans to focus on his final high school season before making a collegiate decision. Ditto for Alian, who has interest from La Salle and CSB.
“Saan ko feel na most welcomed ako,” the point guard said when asked where he’d like to play. “Playing time, importante sa akin.”
(I’ll go where I feel I’m most welcomed. Playing time is important to me.)
“Ayaw ko yung maganda yung school, maganda yung offer, pero hindi ako mag gro-grow,” Gagate added, noting his considerations. “Gusto ko what’s best for me.”
(I don’t want a good school, a good offer, but I’d end up not growing. I want what’s best for me.)
Essentially, what the two friends want, though, is to continue to help each other grow as student-athletes.
“Nakatulong yun sa amin, kasi yung chemistry namin, kung paano ko siya nakilala maglaro, paano ko siya alam maglaro at ‘yung ugali niya, nakakatulong yun,” Gagate said.
(Our friendship helps. Our chemistry – how I know his game, his attitude – it helps.)
“Lalo na sa training kung may mali ka, hindi mo laging makikita or mali ka na pala, kaya siyempre tutulungan ka ng friends mo,” said Alian.
(It helps especially in training, like you can’t always see your mistakes, so it’s good to have friends who help.)
Whether or not they’ll be teammates after this year, they’ll still look to each other for companionship. – Rappler.com