DUBAI – As Batang Gilas fell to bigger and taller opposition in the Fiba U17 World Championship, MVP Sports Foundation president Al Panlilio said there is a need to find young and bigger players ready to suit up for the national squad in the future.
“Our hearts are very big, but physically we have to help ourselves look for players that are also taller and heftier, or maybe we could find Filipino-foreigners. Height is might as they say,” said Panlilio, noting the Philippine players, with an average height of 5-11, looked like boys among men in the tournament.
“If we only had three 6-foot-5 players in our team, napakalaking bagay nun. We gave everybody a tough time. It's only until late in the third to fourth quarter na talagang bumibigay na. Kumbaga sa boxing, kaya mo ang suntok pero kung nasusuntok ka hanggang dulo bibigay ka na."
The MVP Sports Foundation head, whose son is a vital cog in the Batang Gilas' campaign in this prestigious 16-nation tournament, said the Filipinos have the talent to win, but their lack of ceiling doomed their chances.
The Batang Gilas opened their bid with a 10-point setbackto Angola followed by a 20-point loss to Greece, and a 60-point defeat at the hands of reigning champion United States.
In the Round-of-16, France crushed them by 29 points, sending them to the classification round where their best finish will be ninth place.
The Philippines faces South American powerhouse Argentina late Thursday at the Al Shabab Arena.
It will be another uphill climb as the Filipinos will be without leading scorer Jolo Mendoza, who pulled his right hamstring in the closing seconds of the third period of their game against France.
A victory by the Filipinos in their 4:30 pm (10:30 pm in Manila) battle will pit them against the winner of the match between Greece and Egypt for a chance to claim ninth place.
A setback, however, will relegate them in the battle for 13th to 16th places together with three other losers in the classification matches.
Panlilio added Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Manny Pangilinan was already briefed about the outcome and was satisfied with the performance of the boys.
“MVP (Pangilinan) was proud despite the disadvantage in height,” Panlilio, who is also SBP vice president, said. “He sees that the boys are battling. Talagang lumalaban, puso pinapakita nila and because of that, it gives him a lot of pride and tears in his eyes na nakikitang lumalaban and mga bata.”
Batang Gilas coach Jamike Jarin said despite the setback and the absence of Mendoza in their classification match against Argentina, his team will not go down without a fight.
"The odds are as long as you give your best no matter what the results are, you should be proud that you represent the country," he said. "This team is a fighting team, they will continue to fight even if we're out of the quarterfinals."
Jarin and the Batang Gilas will be checking out of this bustling metropolis on Sunday for Doha, Qatar where nine players - led by Kobe Paras - will join them in their quest in the Fiba-Asia U18 Championship starting next week.