High hopes for PH Under-18 3x3 team as AJ Edu brings much-needed size, versatility
AJ Edu, Encho Serrano, Juan Gomez de Liano, and Rhayyan Amsali get instructions from coach Eric Altamirano during practice on Wednesday night. Jerome Ascano

THE Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has high hopes for the Philippine team bound for the Fiba Under-18 3x3 Cup to be played in Chengdu, China.

Fil-Nigerian 6-foot-9 cager AJ Edu, UAAP Season 79 juniors MVP Juan Gomez De Liano (6-2), three-time 3x3 national squad veteran Rhayyan Amsali (6-3), and 5-11 Encho Serrano composed the national squad that will compete in Chengdu from June 28 to July 2 against the world’s best 3x3 ballers.

The four players began practices under Eric Altamirano last Wednesday night at the PhilSports Arena. But even before the practices, there is an air of hope that the team will do well in the competition after forming what SBP officials said is the tallest team they formed ever.

“Excited kami kasi sa nabuo namin na Under-18 3x3 national team, kasi eto ‘yung pinakamalaki,” said SBP 3x3 operations head Mark Solano on Wednesday. “Sa nakikita namin ni Coach Eric, these are part of the best high school players in the country, with the addition of AJ Edu.”

“Very excited kami and very upbeat. We have good chances in the World Cup,” Solano added.

[See Serrano takes act to PH team in Fiba 3x3 Under-18 World Cup]

Solano said Edu’s addition will allow the Philippine squad to match up against the tall players of other countries.

“Ang unang naidagdag niya is the height and the length. He is very agile although we still have to work on some things sa kanya. With the Philippine brand of basketball, medyo nagugulat siya sa physicality. Pero when it comes to skills, very thankful kami na nakuha namin si AJ,” said Solano.

The mixture of talent, skill set, and experience suited for the 3x3 game was also the deciding factor in picking Gomez de Liano, Amsali, and Serrano.

“We have been observing Juan Gomez de Liano when he was still in high school. Sabi namin, ‘yung skill set niya, pang-3x3 talaga. High leaper, slasher, he can shoot from the outside.

“With Rhayyan Amsali, this will be the third time that he will play for Under-18 3x3. He has been with us for the past two Asia Cups and eto ‘yung first World Cup niya so he is very familiar with 3x3 in terms of rules, physicality, and how they play the game.”

“Si Encho naman, he is the top high school player that we have,” said Solano.

In order to go deep into the tournament, however, the Philippines will still have to hurdle Netherlands in Pool A. The Dutch cagers are seeded number one in the competition while Poland, Turkmenistan, and Israel completes Pool A.

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“’Yung pool natin, iniisip namin ‘yung Netherlands. Not to take anything away from Israel, Poland, Turkmenistan, pero ang tinitignan namin na mapapalaban tayo is Netherlands. After that, we will take it one game at a time,” said Solano.

Second-seed Ukraine is joined by New Zealand, Bahrain, Qatar, and Georgia in Pool B, while Pool C has Hungary, Slovenia, China, Turkey, and South Korea. Pool D is composed of Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Indonesia, Belgium, and Uganda.

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