Batang Gilas alums look back fondly on match against NBA lottery picks Tatum, Jackson
Former Batang Gilas player Jolo Mendoza goes for a drive against Team USA's Josh Jackson during the 2014 Under-17 world championships in Dubai. Photo from Fiba.com

MEMBERS of the Philippine team that saw action in the 2014 Fiba Under-17 World Championship cherish the experience of playing against three players from the US team who on Friday were all picked in the first round of the NBA rookie draft.

Jayson Tatum of Duke, Josh Jackson of Kansas, and Harry Giles of Duke were selected by different NBA teams in the draft - just three years after playing for the US youth team that saw action in the Fiba Under-17 World Championship in Dubai.

One of the teams they faced in the group stage was the Philippines' Batang Gilas side which lost to the Americans, 124-64, in the prelims.

Still, it stood out as a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the former Batang Gilas players.

"We are proud to say to our future kids and to the people that we have played against them," said Ateneo guard Matt Nieto of the three US players.

Nieto and twin brother Mike were members of the Batang Gilas team that finished second to China in the 2013 Fiba Asia Under-16 Championship, earning the ticket to the Under-17 world championships the following year.

The game against Team USA made the journey even more special.

"Sobrang blessed kami because nakalaban namin sila before. Actually kinausap ko pa si Josh Jackson after ng game namin and I told him 'Don't forget me once you go to the NBA.' Tumawa siya," said Nieto.

Jackson, who topscored for Team USA in its match against Batang Gilas with 16 points, was selected fourth overall by Phoenix in the NBA draft, just after Tatum was picked third by the Boston Celtics. Giles, who had 15 against Batang Gilas in 2014, was taken by Portland at 20th.

That early, it was already very clear, according to then Batang Gilas head coach Jamike Jarin, that they would be playing players who are NBA bound.

"We were so amazed with their talent and skills. Both of them plays multiple position. We knew that they will make it to the NBA," Jarin, now the head coach of National University in the UAAP, said of Tatum and Jackson.

Jarin said his main instruction to his players was simply to give their best against the Americans.

"Sabi ko lang sa kanila, not everybody is given a chance to get a chance to play against the future of basketball," Jarin said. "We just gave it our best and enjoy every moment. It was a dream game for all of us."

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Nieto and his teammates followed Jarin's instructions and enjoyed the moment of being on the same floor with future NBA stars.

"Kahit doon, napakagaling na nila kaya talagang we cherish every moment in the game because we know they have a bigger chance of making it in the NBA. Nakakatuwa kasi minsan mo lang sila makalaro and nasa NBA na sila," said Nieto.

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