NOW that the Batang Gilas coaching staff has been assembled, it’s time to focus on forming the core of the team that would wage war in the U-16 Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) championship in Manila.
Head coach Michael Oliver is looking to bring together a tall, talented roster anchored on Ateneo stalwart Kai Sotto for the tournament tentatively set for May 15-21 and serves as qualifier for the U-16 Fiba Asia Cup later this year.
Oliver just completed his coaching staff as they get ready for a two-month preparation for the Seaba meet.
Comprising Oliver’s team are Nico Dhaenen from College of St. Benilde, Jigs Mendoza, JB Sison from San Beda high school and Mc Abolucion from Enderun College. Sison and Dhaenen are the new members of the staff as assistant and conditioning coaches, respectively.
The 14-year-old Sotto, standing at 6-foot-9, heads the current training pool which also includes Fil-Australian Ethan Kirkness.
If possible, Oliver hopes to have Kirkness, also 6-foot-9 and 14 years old like Sotto, to make up a towering frontline for the Batang Gilas.
“Yun ang plano,” according to team manager Andrew Teh.
It would have been a triple tower threat for the PH youth team had another 6-foot-9 teener in AJ Edu been eligible to play for the U-16 squad.
“Si Edu next year pa kasi he’s 17 this year,” according to Teh.
So far the Gilas pool is not yet complete pending the ongoing UAAP juniors tournament. But Teh expects training to go full blast once the meet is over.
Teh said the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) opted to keep Oliver as Batang Gilas coach amid rumors he was on the way out following a seventh place finish in the U-18 Fiba-Asia Championship in Tehran, Iran.
The outcome was a far cry from the fifth place finish the team achieved during the 2015 edition of the meet in Jakarta, Indonesia. The stint also saw Batang Gilas losing to Thailand, 74-71, in the preliminary behind Thai-Nigerian Justin Bassey.
“I think it's because of his experience, having been part of the 2013 U-16 PH team that qualified for the U-17 World Championship in Dubai three years ago,” said the Batang Gilas manager when asked on what convinced the SBP to keep Oliver.
“At the same time, continuity na rin nung programa ng team.”