BATANG Gilas finds itself in a tough group in the Fiba Under-17 Basketball World Cup but coaches look forward to playing a competitive game against some of the top youth teams of the world.
The Philippine youth team is bracketed with Argentina, Croatia, and France in Group D. The three teams are ranked No. 7, 8, and 9 respectively in the world.
Batang Gilas assistant coach Josh Reyes, however, said the team doesn’t plan to bow down against the world’s best.
“Just the name of the countries alone, they are very tough. But I believe that, with the proper preparation especially in this age group level, we can really compete,” said Reyes, one of the lieutenants of national youth team coach Mike Oliver.
“The aim is to surprise people and see how far we can go,” he added, pointing out that the team's initial goal is to not get intimidated and have the mindset that they are capable of winning against their foes. “We have to believe and we have to prepare to win. From the time now to the time we fly to Argentina, we are not preparing for a vacation. We are preparing to compete, or else, why go there.”
However, Reyes admitted the opposition will definitely be tough since Argentina, Croatia, and France already have a program in place for their youth basketball. But the son of Gilas coach Chot said that with the Philippines also has a good program for Batang Gilas in place, turning the team to be competitive against the best in the world.
“These teams are way ahead of us in what we are starting now. We are starting the youth program to coincide with the elite program. These teams have been doing it for the past many years that is why they are very efficient when they form their men’s teams. It’s very fluid even with the short amount of preparation,” Reyes said.
“We are starting that right now. It’s a barometer of where we stand. But really, we believe that with the enough preparation and with proper preparation, we can compete with these teams,” he added.
The longtime Gilas and TNT KaTropa assistant coach also said Batang Gilas can already battle against the tallest teams in the world with 7-foot-1 Kai Sotto at the helm.
“We are not a small team anymore. We can hang with those guys. It’s just the preparation and experience of being there. Once we get used to having a high standard of always qualifying and always competing in world-class tournaments, the belief will be there," said Reyes.