NATIONAL coach Jamike Jarin said on Saturday he plans to keep intact the Gilas youth team that finished second to China in the Fiba Asia Under-16 championships, leaving rising star Kobe Paras out of the loop ahead of the youngsters' stint in next year's world championships in Dubai.
Speaking just hours after the Gilas youngsters lost to China, 78-85, in the Under-16 final late Friday night, Jarin said he wants to reward the 12 players who played courageously and defied the odds in Tehran, Iran with a trip to the Under-17 world championships next year.
[For full story, see Gilas youth team settles for runner-up honors as China retains Asian Under-16 title]
“This is it. Sila yung naghirap eh. So I want to reward them for their sacrifices,” Jarin told Spin.ph in an overseas call.
The undersized Gilas team booked the country's highest finish in the Under-16 showpiece while playing without Paras, who missed the trip to see action in the world 3X3 championships in Malaysia, as well as other youth standouts like Richie Rivero, Dino San Juan and Norrish Decapia who were unavailable due to conflicts in schedule with their school teams.
[For full story, see Undersized PH team vows to emulate Gilas fighting spirit in Asian wars]
Asked if the 12 teenagers he brought to Iran will be the best team to send to Dubai, Jarin paused for a second before saying: “Because of the performance we had. I think we’re the first (Philippine) team to finish second in Asia (Under-16). We already have the best team.
“Basta ako, I told the boys after the game, these are the 12 players that will go to Dubai. Because they made a commitment, they made the sacrifices.
“This is the team that will go to Dubai and experience world-class competition,” Jarin insisted.
[Listen to podcast of Jamike Jarin’s full interview here]
Asked if he is prepared to leave out Paras - the newly crowned Fiba World 3x3 slam dunk champion - from the team bound for Dubai, Jarin was non-committal: “I am not thinking about it. Right now, you reward the boys who made the sacrifices.
“I might be sending a strong signal, but I will not change the lineup. These kids deserve to go to Dubai,” he added.
Meanwhile, Gilas, the shortest team in the 14-nation Iran tournament, has earned accolades from the international community with its determination and big, fighting heart as it surpassed the country's fourth-place finishes in the first two editions of the event.
Fiba's own website said the Philippines' silver medal, coming on the heels of another runner-up finish by the Gilas men's team in the Asian championships in August in Manila, was "worth its weight in gold."
Jarin has only good words for his team.
“Let’s give credit to all the boys because of their hard work. They were not intimidated by China. They gave it their best. We were almost there. But of course the height of China really decided it,” he said.
Right after the awarding ceremony, the Gilas youngsters left Iran and are set to arrive in the country on Saturday evening.