THE Philippine Youth team left Manila without much fanfare over the weekend to see action in the 2016 Fiba Asia U18 Championships in Tehran, Iran.
The meet that serves as qualifier to the Fiba U19 World Championship next year in Cairo, Egypt, won’t kick off until Friday, but coach Michael Oliver and the team travelled a week earlier to get acclimatized to the warm Middle East weather.
The team is on a stopover in Doha, Qatar for a three-day training, before proceeding to Tehran on Wednesday.
Veteran Jolo Mendoza and Co. kick off their bid right on opening day against Chinese Taipei.
The following day, the Filipinos battle Iraq, then China on Sunday.
After the tournament takes a break on Monday, Batang Gilas resumes its campaign against Southeast Asian rival Thailand on Tuesday before capping its preliminary round campaign with a game against India.
Only the top three teams will earn a berth to the 2017 world meet.
Mendoza was the only holdover from the Batang Gilas team that finished a surprising runner-up to China in the 2013 Fiba Asia U16 Championship and subsequently qualified for the 2014 Fiba U17 World Championship.
Meanwhile, returning for another tour of duty with the youth squad are Jonas Tibayan, Harvey Pagsanjan, and Gian Mamuyac, members of the Batang Gilas team that shocked mighty China in the Fiba Asia U16 Championship a year ago.
Other members of the team are Josh Sinclair, JB Bahio, Rendell Lee, Kemark Carino, AJ Madrigal, Theo Flores, JV Gallego, and Fran Yu.
Sinclair represented the country in the recent Fiba 3x3 U18 World Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan last month.
The Filipinos are bracketed in Group B with Taipei, China, India, Iraq, and Thailand while Group B is composed of Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, and host Iran.