THE 24-man Gilas Pilipinas pool preparing for next month’s Fiba Asia Challenge Cup in Iran suffered a huge blow with promising Blackwater big man JP Erram going down with another knee injury.
But two unheralded players - Kemark Carino and Yutien Andrada - are ready to step up to provide some ceiling.
Carino may be lacking in heft but, at 18, isn't lacking in international experience. The 18-year-old is a regular for Batang Gilas, most recently in the Fiba Asia Under-18 Championships, and he hopes to bank on his national team stint as he vies for a slot in the final lineup.
"Maa-apply ko dito yung experience ko sa national team," said the 6-foot-8 cager who hopes to provide much-needed rebounding and interior defense to Gilas in the same manner as his idol Marc Pingris.
"Siguro kung papalarin akong mapili sa 12-man lineup, kailangan ko pang higitan 'yung pinakita ko sa Batang Gilas," added Carino, who averaged 7.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and a tournament-best 2.9 blocks per game in the Fiba Asia U18 Championships.
Andrada, who is also among the surprise picks in the pool, isn’t as optimistic as Carino in trying to make the roster as he doesn't have any experience in international competitions to bank on.
The former La Salle forward, though, hopes to make the most of the opportunity to play with the big names and bolster his chances of making a PBA comeback.
"Gagawin ko lang best ko kahit hindi man ako mapasama sa final lineup para at least sa huli hindi ako magsisi," said the forward, who played sparingly for Barako Bull (now Phoenix) in the PBA before suiting up for Phoenix in the D-League.
"Gagamitin ko yung opportunity na ito para rin makabalik sa PBA," he added.