GILAS Pilipinas was given a glimpse of the future at the resumption of its practices on Tuesday night when Fil-Nigerian teen AJ Edu joined the practices at the Meralco Gym.
Standing a little over 6-9 at just age 17, Edu stood out, literally, in the huddle at the end of the practice - standing tall over the likes of big men Raymond Almazan, Raymar Jose and Fonzo Gotladera.
The future is indeed bright for the national team.
But as much as Gilas coaches were glad to see him in the flesh, the prodigious England-based teenager was thrilled to be on the same floor with 'the best players in the Philippines.'
“It’s amazing. This is something that people dream of. An opportunity to come and train with the best players in the Philippines. It’s really amazing,” said Edu as the team wrapped up its first official training session for the Jones Cup in July.
“I was nervous for it. I was ready. I was really excited for it. I’m really happy with how I trained,” he added.
The Cyprus-born prospect is here in the country to represent the country in the upcoming FIBA 3x3 Under-18 in July. He is also set to make his Batang Gilas debut next year.
With the 3x3 team on a break, Edu took advantage of the time to test his mettle with the seniors team.
“I was told by my coach that (Gilas team manager) Butch Antonio invited me. When I heard that news, that really lifted me up and gave me confidence,” he said.
“I might be coming again, hopefully it will become something regular in the future. Right now it’s just an experience.”
Edu was left in awe as he worked out with some of the best players in the country, including Gilas new boy Ray Parks who he looked up to.
Edu got a glimpse of Parks’ game in the NBA D-League and he has followed the former National University standout ever since.
“Rayray is the main one. I’ve heard of him a lot. I’ve seen a lot of videos of him, playing in the D-League and stuff like that. To play with someone who’s in the (NBA) D-League is really cool,” said Edu.
“They just told me to keep doing what I’m doing. They kept giving me confidence, telling me that they’ll learn. So it was really encouraging.”
Gilas coach Chot Reyes said this is the perfect opportunity for young prospects like Edu to get a feel of what it’s like to be in the senior national team.
“We always like to do that with the younger guys. We always want to expose them to the national pool. We've been looking at him for a long time, that’s why we wanted to get him here and practice with us,” Reyes said.
From the looks of it, it was an experience that Edu would never forget.
“It’s kind of emotional. One of the first time I’m doing something like that, representing a nation. It’s quite emotional.”