MANILA, Philippines – Height is might in the world of basketball, and now, the Gilas Pilipinas Youth program embodies that statement as well.
With 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto and 6-foot-10 AJ Edu leading the pack for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup, the Philippines’ chances for a podium finish have never been higher.
The fun doesn’t stop there for undoubtedly the tallest Philippine youth team ever assembled as versatile big men like 6-foot-9 Geo Chiu, 6-foot-7 Carl Tamayo and 6-foot-5 JB Lina also join the fray.
Even the Gilas Youth backcourt crosses the 6-foot line as 6-foot-1 Fil-Italian sensation Dalph Panopio will run the offense along with 6-foot-4 scoring machine Dave Ildefonso, who will play his last stint in the age-capped division.
In fact, there is only one player under 6 feet per the official FIBA roster and that is 5-foot-11 National University juniors champion point guard Gerry Abadiano. (READ: Not just Kai or AJ: Teamwork key for Gilas youth in FIBA U19 World Cup)
However, all that height comes with even bigger responsibilities, and new head coach Sandy Arespacochaga will have his work cut out for him once the tournament starts in Heraklion, Greece on Saturday, June 29 (Sunday, June 30, Philippine time).
The Filipino youngsters are locked in a daunting Group C which boasts host nation Greece (world No. 15), Argentina (No. 9) and Russia (No. 19). The Philippines can be found way below the ladder at 30th after sliding down 4 spots in the latest rankings.
The Gilas program forever preached puso (heart) as a compromise for Filipino ballers’ lack of height when rubbing against the shoulders of giants. But now, the future has never been brighter as this youth team is actively defying the Pinoy genetic trend.
Will heart and height come together in Greece and bring the Philippines to success? Follow the team's World Cup journey: