By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
A TALL Batang Gilas team bannered by twin towers begins its 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship campaign this weekend in Thailand.
Seven-footer Kai Sotto and 6’11 Filipino-Nigerian AJ Edu are part of the squad that will carry the Philippine cause in the biennial U18 tournament happening from Aug. 5 to 11 and against 15 other teams from around the region.
The tournament will be the first time that the two will join forces for the national team and both are excited for the opportunity.
“I’m looking forward to playing with Kai Sotto. I watched the tournament in Argentina. I think it can work out really well I believe. So I think they have the right idea to be excited,” Edu was quoted as saying by the FIBA website in an interview, referring to the FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina last month where Sotto helped the Philippines to a 13th-place finish, the country’s highest placing in the history of the tournament.
In the U17, Ateneo’s Sotto, 16, proved himself a force to be reckoned with, averaging 16.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks.
His splendid play has many looking at him as the face of the future for Philippine basketball, something the second-generation player said he is determined “to live up to.”
Edu, 18, meanwhile, will don the national colors once again after getting the chance the first time at the FIBA 3×3 U18 World Cup last year in China, in tandem with Rhayyan Amsali, Juan Gomez De Liano and Florencio Serrano, where they wound up at 7th place.
Joining Sotto and Edu in the U18 Batang Gilas team coached by Josh Reyes are Miguel Oczon (Nazareth School of National University), Dalph Panopio (Italy-based), Gerry Abadiano (NU), Xyrus Torres (Far Eastern University-Diliman), Joshua Ramirez (Chiang Kai Shek), Amsali (San Beda High School), Sean Ildefonso (NU), Raven Cortez (De La Salle Zobel), Carl Tamayo (NU) and Shaun Chiu (Ateneo).
Batang Gilas is grouped along with China, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.
Other groupings have 2016 winner Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan and Indonesia in Group A, Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain and Thailand in Group C, and South Korea, Chinese Taipei, India and Syria in Group D.
The top teams in the grouping advance outright to the quarterfinals while the second and third place teams go through a playoff to determine who get to advance to the quarters.
The Philippines will begin its campaign against Lebanon first on Aug. 5, then UAE on Aug. 6 and China on Aug. 7.
Before leaving for Thailand, the Batang Gilas U18 team will be having a send-off hosted by backer Chooks-To-Go today.