IT’S still six years away, yet Mac Belo is already excited at the prospect of playing in front of the home crowd in the Fiba World Cup that the Philippines will be co-hosting in 2023.
The country on Saturday claimed the right to host the world basketball championships with Japan and Indonesia over the tandem of Argentina and Uruguay. As host, the Philippines is automatically qualified for the tournament.
“Sobrang saya, kasi after ilang years, maka-host ulit tayo,” Belo said in a chat with SPIN.ph after Blackwater practice on Monday. “Sobrang grabe ng effort na ginawa ng team na pumunta dun.”
Belo, 24, is part of the current Gilas Pilipinas pool, although he fell short of cracking the 12-man roster for the two games in the first window of the 2019 World Cup qualifiers last month against Japan and Chinese Taipei.
But by the time the country hosts the World Cup, the 6-foot-4 combo forward is expected to be in the prime of his career at 30 and among the top prospects to make the lineup – barring any major injuries and unforeseen events.
Still, Belo was quick to play down his chances of being a shoo-in on the 2023 squad.
“Tingnan na lang natin kung anong mangyayari,” the Blackwater stalwart said. “Basta ako, personally, day by day naman ako nagwo-work eh.”
What he’s also excited about is the chance to team up with towering prodigies Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, and Kobe Paras, who are all likewise expected to battle for spots in the 2023 team.
“Oo naman, kasi marami tayong matatangkad na bata ngayon, sila Kai, sila Edu, sila Kobe,” Belo said. “So talagang may height na tayo na panlaban internationally.”
“Kahit sino naman ilagay dyan, basta national team, masaya kung sino magiging teammates mo,” he added.
Aside from Belo, Kiefer Ravena, who is also 24, are considered still with a shot at a spot in the 2023 World Cup team from the current batch of Gilas players.
Paras, who is currently in the US undergoing residency for NCAA Division I side Cal State Northridge, will be 26 in 2023. The 7-1 Sotto will be 21 and Fil-Nigerian Edu 23.