By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Philippine national youth team will see action at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece beginning later this month boasting one of the taller lineups in the squad’s rich history that has many excited.
Led by the twin towers of 7’1” Kai Sotto and 6’10” AJ Edu, the 14-man pool will try to make waves in the prestigious youth tournament happening from June 29 to July 7.
Joining Sotto and Edu in the pool are Shaun Chiu (6’9”), Carl Tamayo (6’7”), Bismark Lina (6’5”), Dave Ildefonso (6’4”) and Joshua Ramirez (6’4”).
Also part of the team are Xyrus Torres, Gerry Abadiano, Rhyyan Amsali, Miguel Oczon, Dalph Panopio, Terrence Fortea and James Daniel Spencer.
Save for Edu and Panopio who play abroad, the rest of the team played or are still playing in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines and National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Coaching the squad is Sandy Arespacochaga, who is deputy to coach Tab Baldwin with reigning UAAP champions Ateneo Blue Eagles. He will be assisted by Goldwin Monteverde, Charles Tiu and Jen Ryn Betia.
Having assembled the kind of team it has, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said it is very excited to see this latest iteration of the Gilas Pilipinas Youth perform on the World Cup stage.
In a statement, SBP President Al Panlilio said “We are excited to see how our team, the tallest ever assembled, will compete against the best in the world in their age group.”
He went on to say that to help the team prepare, it will hold a training camp in Qatar before proceeding to Heraklion, Greece, for the tournament proper.
Sotto, who played high school basketball with Ateneo, returned to the country from the United Sates last week after a two-month training with top players and strength and conditioning coaches.
He has made his intention to work his way to the National Basketball Association by playing overseas.
Edu, meanwhile, also came back last week from the United Kingdom. He currently studies at the University of Toledo in the United States.
In the U19 World Cup, the Philippines will open its bid in Group C along with Argentina, host Greece and Russia.
In other groups are Senegal, the US, New Zealand and Lithuania (Group A); Mali, Australia, Canada and Latvia (Group B); and China, Puerto Rico, France and Serbia (Group D).
Tournament format calls for the 16 participating teams playing against all other teams in its own group — a total of three games for each team.
All teams qualify for the Round of 16, where they will cross between Groups A and B and C and D. The winners of the Round of 16 games advance to the quarterfinals, while the losers move on to the Classification Games for Places 9-16.