THE Gilas Pilipinas youth team arrived in Tehran, Iran on Wednesday and is ready to plunge into action against Chinese Taipei to kick off its campaign in the Fiba-Asia Under-16 championships.
Coach Jamike Jarin said the players are in high spirits despite having to adjust to the change in time zones as they prepare to take on some of the best Under-16 teams in the region.
“Nanibago talaga sila sa body clock,” said Jarin. “But the boys are very excited to compete against the best in Asia."
Although the Philippines will field one of the smallest teams in the 14-nation tourney, Jarin said the team gets respect from other countries owing to Gilas' runner-up finish behind Iran in the last Asian men's championships in Manila.
“Alam naman ng lahat na kahit maliliit tayo, palaban ang mga Pinoy,” said Jarin.
The Philippines is bracketed with ChineseTaipei and Kazakhstan in the preliminaries, with all the teams automatically moving to the next round to face Japan, Jordan and India.
On Wednesday evening, the national coaching staff had a good look at their first opponent, Chinese Taipei, which debuted with a 109-82 win over Kazakhstan.
“Malalaki ang Kazakhstan and Chinese Taipei presses a lot. We’ll be ready tonight,” said Jarin, who has been at the helm of the successful Ateneo Blue Eaglets basketball team for 13 years before taking on the national youth job.
Meanwhile, MVP Sports Foundation president Al Panlilio expressed optimism that this team now supported by Smart Communications will continue the country’s resurgence in Asian basketball.
“We don’t want to pressure the kids pero mataas ang kumpiyansa natin na may ipapakita tayo dito sa Iran,” said Panlilio, who arrived in Iran on Thursday.