Tough early test as Gilas cadets get UAAP champ Ateneo as opening-day assignment in Filoil
The Gilas cadets are grouped with UAAP champion Ateneo and runner-up La Salle. Jerome Ascano

REIGNING UAAP men’s champion Ateneo tests the mettle of Gilas Pilipinas cadets in the opener of the 2018 Filoil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup on Saturday in San Juan.

The nationals and the Blue Eagles clash at 6:30 p.m. San Beda will start its title defense against National University on Sunday.

This will be the first tournament for the cadets since the training pool was formed early this year.

With the cadets, the Eagles, Red Lions and Bulldogs in Group A are La Salle, Mapua, Emilio Aguinaldo College, Perpetual Help, University of the East and University of the Philippines.

Group B has Adamson, Arellano, College of St. Benilde, Letran, Far Eastern University, Lyceum, San Sebastian, Jose Rizal University, and University of Santo Tomas.

Tournament director Bennett Palad said the stint will definitely help the squad become one cohesive unit.

“Malaking tulong because they’re competing with the best players and best schools natin. Kung national team player ako mahahasa ng husto yung skills ko,” said Palad, who was with long-time Filoil Preseason Premier Cup official Joey Guillermo during the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at the Tapa King Restaurant at Farmers Plaza in Cubao.

“At tsaka yung bonding nila importante yun,” added Palad, a former PBA player and national team member himself.

“Through the years, kailangan i-polish yan. Hindi naman overnight yan nagagawa. Malaking factor yan especially when we compete with other teams abroad.”

Guillermo said the country’s premier preseason tournament has always been committed to extending a helping hand for national cause.

“I think this will be the fourth time where a national team will be playing in the preseason,” he said in the regular public sports program presented by San Miguel Corp., Tapa King, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

The last time a Philippine squad saw action in the meet was during the time of Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng, both of who are now rookies in the PBA.

“Before kasi yung mga U18 or U16 pag nagre-request sila (to join) while preparing for an international meet,” Guillermo said. “Nilalagay sila sa men’s division para mabatak sila.

“Pero ngayon U23, I think they can match up na sa mga college teams natin.”

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