The Philippines’ 13th place finish in the FIBA Under-17 World Cup didn’t look as impressive as it should on paper, but it was a giant positive step towards the future and was an indication that the Batang Gilas is primed for bigger things.
The team’s confidence, as a result, is at an all-time high, and they’re using this as motivation in the upcoming Under-18 Asian Championship, where everyone’s eyes will undoubtedly be on its loaded core.
Don’t be mistaken, though: the Smart-backed Batang Gilas won’t be facing lesser competition this time around, and you can expect that they won’t be treating their Asian foes as such.
“’Di namin iniisip kung gaano kalaki o kahina ‘yung kalaban, basta kung ano ‘yung gusto system namin, ‘yun ang gagawin namin. ‘Di porke’t malakas kami o nakapasok kami sa World Cup eh tingin namin sa FIBA Asia mahihina o maliliit,” guard Gerry Abadiano said in an interview at Kerry Sports in Taguig last Saturday.
The National University Bullpup, who starred in a couple of Batang Gilas matches, knows very well that overconfidence won’t do them any good come tournament time. He explained that he and other members of the team had that same mentality heading into the World Cup but were humbled by some teams who were miles ahead in terms of skill, finesse, physicality, athleticism, and polish.
“Alam namin na malakas ‘yung team naming dito sa Pilipinas pero pag-abot ng World Cup, ‘yung akala namin akala lang pala kasi ‘yung mga kalaban namin mas matangkad pa sa’min, mas malaki sa’min, mas mabilis pa tapos ‘yung iba, pwede pa maging NBA players,” Abadiano added.
Kai Sotto, on the other hand, ranked among the tournament’s most notable players in the Under-17 showpiece and is aware that he’s a marked man entering the Asian Championship. He said that he’s using this fact to keep him grounded, which will prompt him to stay on his toes for what opponents might bring against him next week.
“Sabi ni daddy ‘yung mga magagaling na players ‘yung mga magagaling mag-adjust. Sa tingin ko dahil din sa pinakita ko nung World Cup magiging mas madikit at mas madiin sila sa’kin kaya hahanap ako ng paraan para matulungan ko ‘yung team ko kahit ‘di ako maka-score,” Sotto said.
He and the team are bringing valuable lessons from Argentina, though, so they’re gunning to translate their performances into something positive in Nothaburi.
“’Yung FIBA Worlds, ‘yun ‘yung may pinakamataas na experience na madadala namin kaya kailangan lang namin i-apply sa FIBA Asia,” the 7-foot-1 behemoth said. “Kung kaya ko ‘tong gawin against world-class teams and players, eh ‘di mas kaya ko ‘tong gawin sa Pilipinas at kaya ko rin gawin sa FIBA Asia.”
The young Nationals will open their bid for gold against Lebanon on Group B. They’re also bracketed with China and United Arab Emirates in competing for a shot at the Under-19 World Championship next year.
(Photo credit: FIBA)