RATHER that putting pressure on his boys to deliver, Batang Gilas coach Josh Reyes is keeping his faith in his wards as they brace for a tough outing in the 2018 Fiba Under-18 Asian Championship in Nonthaburi, Thailand.
Though the Philippines will bring in probably the tallest national youth squad ever composed, the youthful mentor is clear on what he wants to see from the squad bannered by 7-foot-1 Kai Sotto and 6-foot-10 AJ Edu.
“It’s really hard to expect anything in terms of results or things like that, but I will say this: I expect all these guys to play their best and to work their hardest. That’s the expectation we have from everybody, to really give their all for the country and for the team,” he said.
Reyes is banking on the players’ familiarity with each other owing to their experience in the 2018 Fiba Under-17 World Cup as a difference-maker in the continental campaign.
“It’s big. I think we’re seeing the benefits of it, na kahit hindi continuous yung practice, they’re still grasping of what we’re trying to do,” he said. “They’re still grasping the concept because we’re coming from tournaments and I believe we should have more of that in the future so that we’ll have continuity and familiarity with each other.”
Aside from the potent twin tower combo of Sotto and Edu, Batang Gilas has also welcomed Rome-based 6-foot-1 playmaker Dalph Panopio to the team as he has wasted no time blending in with lead guard Gerry Abadiano.
As much as Reyes has his full trust on his squad, he knows that the Philippines has remained as underdogs with fellow contending countries given more time to prepare for the tourney.
“I know we will compete hard, I know we will be good, and I know our players will be able to understand our system we’re trying to install. The only thing is, lamang na lamang na mga kalaban natin," the youth team coach said.
"Japan and Korea have been going at it for a month already, Australia has been together for quite a while doing tune-up tournaments already, and China, alam niyo naman na baka isang buwan na nagpe-prepare ang U-18 nila. That’s my only concern lang. How will we bridge that gap?,” he added.
Batang Gilas has its work cut out for them as it is placed in Group B together with China, Lebanon, and United Arab Emirates in the youth meet from August 5 to 11.
“We’re finding ways,” said Reyes. “I trust the guys, the players that I have to be able to find ways to hasten the buildup of this team.”