BATANG Gilas is back in the FIBA World Under-17 Championship, which is the second time a Philippine youth team was able to make it to the world stage since the program started.
And while players like Kai Sotto, Rence Padrigao, Raven Cortez and Mclaude Gudaña basked in the spotlight due to their performances, much of the credit should also be given to head coach Michael Oliver.
Over the past three years, Oliver was able to put up a solid program after inheriting a team from his predecessor Jamike Jarin, who led a different under-16 squad to the World Cup in Dubai four years ago.
Oliver has had his shares of ups and downs in his buildup, but he picked up milestones along the way.
Three years ago, he guided a PH squad to a king-sized upset win over the mighty China in the FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship. In this year’s edition of the same tournament, the Filipinos were able to hold their own against the Chinese before losing by just six.
As a result, Oliver will be the third coach in the modern era to coach a Philippine squad to the world stage after Chot Reyes (2014 World Cup for Gilas Pilipinas) and Jarin.
For Oliver, seeing Jarin get to the World Cup and leave the team in his hands gave him a sense of responsibility that he should look after the squad that he inherited from his previous mentor and accomplish something similar to the man before him.
“Yes it’s a big shoe to fill pumasok sa World Cup, then syempre yun din gusto mo mangyari just like kay Coach Jamike. Coach Jamike always supports me even before our game vs Japan, he asked me how’s the team and advised me to reach for the stars,” Oliver wrote in an exlcusive online interview with FoxSports.ph.
Now that his team is competing in the biggest under-17 stage, Oliver plans to shape them up and prepare them for two hard months. But the biggest roadblock in the way of doing it is the players’ availability since they are also committed to playing for their respective schools.
“We’re planning to train hard for two months and we need that kind of preparation. Unfortunately, we cannot do the training ng tuluy-tuloy dahil mayroon rin silang commitment from their respective schools,” added Oliver.
Despite this, Oliver is still optimistic that he’ll be able to have them initially train for 10 days before commencing the training camp.
“We’ll have a 10-day training sa US, para rin masanay na sila sa klima doon, then doon lang natin magagawa na magkaroon ng training camp,” added Oliver. “One game at a time and see from there saan tayo makakarating. Hopefully, we make it to the second round.”
Photo from Coach Michael Oliver’s Facebook.