LESS than a week before Batang Gilas leaves for the 2018 Fiba Under-18 Asian Championship, coach Josh Reyes is in a race against time to instill his system in the face of absences in practices.
It doesn’t help that he has yet to have a complete attendance in prartice.
With the National University Bullpups competing in the 2018 Asean School Games in Malaysia and overseas-based players just arriving in the past weeks and players fulfilling academic obligations after playing in the 2018 Fiba Under-17 World Cup, Reyes has struggled in the buildup to the continental showpiece.
“There were guys who competed in Malaysia. Some guys had school, lalo na 'yung mga galing sa World Cup, that included Kai (Sotto), and all of them had to catch up on their studies. We barely had complete practices in the prior weeks,” he said.
NU slotman Carl Tamayo has begged off after suffering a foot injury, and now, it is San Beda winger Rhayyan Amsali who had to temporarily leave the team for a personal emergency as he went home to Zamboanga.
“We’re praying for Rhayyan’s grandfather who’s sick right now,” shared the youthful mentor. “He went home to Mindanao for family matters. You know, that’s just part of it. It’s not ideal, of course, but we’re praying for his family.”
Reyes, though, isn’t worried that much, knowing that he has players with high basketball IQ that can quickly adapt to his system. That’s why he’s excited for Monday when he’ll finally have all of his 12 players up and running ahead of the youth tournament, set on August 5 to 11 in Nonthaburi, Thailand.
“It’s still a work in progress. I think they’ve had a total of four practices and two games together and that’s it. But the purpose of this mini-camp, overnight camp really, is to finally have all of them together para naman ma-solo ko naman sila and for them to be complete,” he said.
“I’m very positive naman. I really like the attitude of everyone here. They’re giving their all, they’re giving their complete focus. Madali naman nila napi-pick up lahat. They’re quite familiar with some of the stuff we have from the Worlds and we’re just adding things.
"We have smart players now, players who have really high basketball IQs. That will definitely help things progress along the way. And I’ve seen great maturity and understanding of the game from the guys who came from the World Cup.”
What Reyes wants to work on these remaining days is developing Batang Gilas’ chemistry, hoping to see possibly the tallest youth team we’ve ever had blend well.
“The biggest part of me naman is them getting comfortable playing with each other. And as you know, whatever level it is, that takes time. So hopefully, these remaining practices would be enough,” he said as the team is set to fly for Bangkok on Friday.