ALTHOUGH the Philippines is bracketed in the so-called 'Group of Death' in the 2014 Fiba U17 world championships in Dubai, UAE, four seasoned members of the team vowed to go all out for flag and country.
Expected to once again lead the charge for the Philippine team are 2013 Seaba Youth MVP Jolo Mendoza, high-scoring forward Jolo Go of Hope Christian School and twins Mike and Matt Nieto of Ateneo.
The four youth cagers spearheaded the campaign of the Jamike Jarin-mentored squad in last year’s Fiba Asia Under-16 where the Philippines finished runner-up to powerhouse China.
“Mabigat po talaga ang hamon para sa amin, pero puso na lang po talaga ang papairalin namin. Sa Tehran, Iran (Fiba Asia) last year, wala nga din pong naniniwala na mag-fi-finals kami,” said Mendoza, son of Barako Bull assistant coach Jig.
“Siguro po, we’ll just try to perfectly execute our game plan. Coach Jamike told us to be resilient. It’s not going to be an easy campaign, but we have to stamp our class in the world scene,” added the Ateneo Blue Eaglet.
The Philippines is bracketed in Group A with world champion USA, Greece and Angola. The Pinoys will play the Angolans on August 8, the Greeks on August 9th and the Americans on the 11th.
Even the official Fiba website is not undermining the capabilities of the small but resilient Filipino side.
“We have a tough task ahead, but we are already here. We want to show the world the class of the Filipinos in basketball, we will not back down,” said Jarin, the first national youth coach to take the Philippines to the world youth championships.
Also playing for the ‘Batang Gilas’ are Richard Escoto (FEU), Paul Desiderio (UP), Mike Dela Cruz (La Salle Greenhills), Diego Dario (UP), Mikel Panlilio (International School), Renzo Navarro (San Sebastian), Arnie Padailla (FEU) and Carlo Abadeza (La Salle Greenhills).
Before flying to Dubai on August 6, the nationals will play Chinese Taipei Under-18 team on Wednesday and Thursday at the Philsports Arena as part of their buildup for the worlds.