by Waylon Galvez
Gilas Pilipinas Youth mentor Sandy Arrespacochaga declared the team’s readiness to “rumble” with the heavyweights as they left yesterday to vie in the FIBA U-19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece.
Though the team has Fil-foreign players in its fold, Arrespacochaga is convinced they have reached the level where chemistry is not much of a concern.
Their successful trip to Doha, Qatar where they beat Qatar’s No. 1 pro team twice bodes well to their Greece campaign.
“Our team is putting in the work,” said Arrespacochaga as the young squad surprisingly dominated one Qatar’s top pro teams Al Rayyan with two convincing wins, 79-54 last Sunday and 93-64 last Tuesday.
Gilas Youth 7-foot-2 center Kai Sotto starred in the first win as he collected 19 points, while Fil-Cypriot AJ Edu and Fil-Italian Dalph Panopio powered the team’s other win as they combined for 32 points.
The other members of the Gilas Youth are Xyrus Torres, Gerry Abadiano, John Bismarck Lina, Rhayyan Amsali, Joshua Ramirez, Miguel Andre Oczon, Sean Dave Ildefonso, Terrence Fortea, James Spencer and Carl Tamayo.
Although nine of its players were holdovers from the under-18 Philippine team, which placed fourth in the FIBA U-18 Asia Championship last year in Thailand to earn a spot in the World Cup, Arrespacochaga that players are coming together as they build on chemistry.
“They’ve improved their chemistry and teamwork,” said Arrespacochaga. “But will this be enough to get us ready to go up against strong teams like Greece, Argentina and Russia?”
“For us the key is to try to improve by as much as we can given the time we have together. So every practice, every video session, every day is key for us,” added the young mentor.