MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Youth is eyeing a third FIBA World Cup appearance in four years.
But that is easier said than done as the Philippines faces tough competition when it kicks off its campaign in the FIBA U16 Asian Championship in Doha, Qatar, against Kuwait on Monday, June 13.
Led by Caelum Harris, Gilas Youth will also go up against Japan in the group stage of the tournament that serves as a qualifying event for the FIBA U17 World Cup in Malaga, Spain, in July.
“I hope everybody will surprise everyone,” said Philippine head coach Josh Reyes as the national team staged overseas and local tryouts to determine the 15 players who flew to Qatar.
Together with Harris, Lebron Nieto, Jacob Bayla, Jared Bahay, Jayden Jones, Kristian Porter, Zain Mahmood, Alex Konov, Renzo Competente, Mikhail Romero, Apl Mcandrei Gemao, and Sebastian Reyes form the 12-man roster.
Veejay Pre, Joseph Pangilinan, and Elijah Yusi are the reserves.
“Until we get there and play in the actual games, I think it is not going to be accurate to say who is going to surprise,” Reyes said.
“We never know who can come out big. But it does not matter who can put up big stat-wise. It has to be team effort for us.”
The top team from each of the four groups will advance directly to the quarterfinals, while the two next best squads will fight for their tournament lives in the playoffs.
Only the top four finishers in the 13-team contest will book their tickets to Spain.
For Reyes, reaching the World Cup has been made much more difficult now that the national youth squad does not have NBA aspirant Kai Sotto in its fold.
Sotto, who recently turned 20, helped the Philippines qualify for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina and 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece.
“We’re not the same youth team that qualified for two World Cups in the past wherein we had an obvious focal point in Kai Sotto,” Reyes said.
“This time around, we will try to win and we have to win games as a collective unit.” – Rappler.com