GILAS Pilipinas has secured the commitment of Fil-Am prospect Caelum Harris as one of its pillars for the other qualifying windows, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup (WC) proper next year and more major tournaments in the future.

Mr. Harris, a 6-foot-7, 16-year-old wunderkind, will join Gilas early next month to beef up the crippled national team program gearing up for the 2023 World Cup to be co-hosted by the Philippines.

“We’re very seriously building for the future and having Mr. Caelum is just the first step in this direction,” said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Alfredo “Al” Panlilio.

A standout from Nashville, Tennessee but traces his roots in Cebu, Mr. Harris is eligible to play for the Nationals as a local after obtaining a Philippine passport before turning 16.

He is expected to be available in the succeeding WC qualifying windows, Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Asian Games and the FIBA Asia Cup as part of Gilas’ loaded schedule until the World Cup.

Meanwhile for Gilas in the first window on Feb. 24-28, it will have a real home court advantage after the go signal on fully vaccinated fans to watch the games live at the Big Dome.

It will be the first Gilas home games in front of a roaring crowd since the country’s gold medal conquest in the 2019 SEA Games at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Last year in Clark, Pampanga, Gilas played behind closed doors and under a bubble setting as it completed a 6-0 sweep of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.

Fans will enjoy four Group A games of Gilas against South Korea on Feb. 24 and 28; and against India and New Zealand on Feb. 25 and 27, respectively. — John Bryan Ulanday