MANILA, Philippines – Fielding one of its tallest lineup in recent years, Gilas Pilipinas Youth vies for a World Cup berth when it plunges into action in the FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship in Tehran, Iran starting Sunday, August 21.
Regional powers Australia and New Zealand have decided to skip the tournament, making it a wide open race where the top four finishers will claim spots in the 2023 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup in Hungary.
The Philippines will have a squad that will not give up a lot on size, a typical problem of Gilas squads at all levels of competition.
In fact, this iteration of Gilas Youth boasts an average height of 6-foot-4 – the tallest national youth squad since the 2018 batch of Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, Geo Chiu, Carl Tamayo, and Raven Cortez, who all stood at least 6-foot-7.
That U18 crew finished fourth in Asia to clinch a spot in the 2019 World Cup.
Six players in this year’s roster stand at least 6-foot-5, with four of them over 6-foot-7.
Manning the frontline chores will be La Salle Green Hills twin towers – 6-foot-8 Seven Gagate and 6-foot-7 Manuel Luis Pablo – along with 6-foot-8 Kobe Demisana of UPIS, and Ateneo’s Mason Amos, a highly touted 6-foot-7 stretch big man.
Two standouts from Gilas U16 – Ateneo’s 6-foot-5 power forward Kristian Porter and Ateneo de Cebu’s 5-foot-9 playmaker Jared Bahay – will be transitioning to U18 duties.
Bahay, the only one in the squad who stands below 6-foot-1, impressed in the FIBA U16 Asian Championship in Doha last June.
Expected to provide backcourt stability and leadership will be San Beda Red Cubs team captain and point guard Prince Ray Alao, as well as 6-foot-4 Ateneo-commit Kyle Gamber from Polytech High School in the US.
The team will also have a wing corps that is lengthy with 6-foot-4 James Nacua of San Beda, 6-foot-4 Joshua Coronel of La Salle Green Hills, and a pair of incoming La Salle recruits from abroad – 6-foot-4 Filipino-Australian Jared Abadam and 6-foot-5 LA Andres from Dubai.
The Philippines will play three straight days in pool play against teams they have the height advantage over – Syria on August 21, Qatar on August 22, and Chinese Taipei on August 23.
If Gilas advances, it will still contend with traditionally strong teams from China, South Korea, and Chinese Taipei, even with defending champion Australia and last edition’s runner-up New Zealand not seeing action this year.
Mentored by Josh Reyes, the young Nationals not only need to sweep the preliminary rounds, but they also have to win by sizable margins.
With only 10 participating teams divided into three groups, FIBA decided to utilize a new format where the eight teams that make past the preliminaries will be assigned to different pots.
The cumulative rankings among the three groups will be used to determine which pot a team will be placed in, from which the draw for the knockout quarterfinals will be determined.
A team’s win-loss record in the preliminaries, head-to-head results, points difference, and points scored will be the basis of the cumulative rankings.
Japan and Lebanon may be tipped as favorites as the two countries recently emerged as serious continental contenders in both the senior and junior levels.
Japan finished second to Australia in the FIBA U16 Asia Championship last June, while Lebanon finished fourth after losing the battle for bronze to New Zealand.
FIBA U16 Asia MVP Yuto Kawashima, a 6-foot-7 power forward, will banner Japan’s U18 team.
With an average height of 6-foot-5, host country Iran will be parading one of the tallest lineups in the field as it seeks to defend home turf.
India is another team that has invested in its youth program as evidenced by its fifth-place finish in the FIBA U16 Asia.
Kushal Singh, a 6-foot-5 power forward named to the FIBA U16 Asia All Tournament Team, will be part of the Indian lineup in Tehran. – Rappler.com