Not just Kai or AJ: Teamwork key for Gilas youth in FIBA U19 World Cup

MANILA, Philippines – All eyes will be on twin towers Kai Sotto and AJ Edu in the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, but Gilas Pilipinas youth emphasized on the need for a collective effort to go toe-to-toe with the best. 

Ranked 30th by FIBA, the Philippines will have its work cut out for it in the global hoops showdown as it faces Argentina (No. 9), host country Greece (No. 15), and Russia (No. 19) in Group C. 

"Those teams are very good. Honestly, it's going to be an uphill battle for us," said Philippines head coach Sandy Arespacochaga during the team sendoff on Monday, June 18. 

"That's why we've been telling our boys that our opponents are stronger so it would require more out of us. We're demanding more from these individuals and these players."

"But we're also stressing to them that we cannot go and beat these teams individually. It's not going to be Kai versus Greece or AJ versus Greece. It's going to take the whole team, it's going to take 12 players." 

Gilas youth will field arguably its tallest frontcourt in history with the 7-foot-2 Sotto, 6-foot-10 Edu, 6-foot-8 Geo Chiu, 6-foot-8 Carl Tamayo, and the 6-foot-5 Bismarck Lina manning the fort inside. 

The 14-man pool also include a bevy of talented guards and forwards in Dave Ildefonso, Dalph Panopio, Migs Oczon, James Spencer, Joshua Ramirez, Rhayyan Amsali, Xyrus Torres, Gerry Abadiano, and Terrence Fortea.

But Arespacochaga knows height and skill are not enough against teams with equally imposing lineups. 

"The talent is there, the chemistry there but we want to demand more. We're up against stronger teams so that would require a bigger effort from us," he said.  

The Philippine team will first participate in a pocket tournament in Qatar on June 21 before flying to Greece on June 27 – two days before the World Cup kicks off. 

In Greece, the Nationals will play 3 games in 4 days in the first round and will seek to clinch at least two wins for a favorable placing in the knockout second round. –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.