IT isn’t easy playing against bigger and taller players in the US NCAA, but Fil-Nigerian AJ Edu believes the experiences he'd gained will be a big help for him as he suits up for the national team in the Fiba U-19 World Cup.
The 6'1" Edu, who studies at the University of Toledo, an NCAA Division 1 school, arrived from United Kingdom, where his family is currently based, to join Gilas Pilipinas Youth in its preparation for the tournament in Greece from June 29 to July 7.
The 19-year-old big man was named second-best shot blocker in the Mid-Atlantic Conference this past season, averaging 1.7 block shots per game in his rookie year.
His impressive performance earned him a place in the MAC All-Freshman Team.
“When I played my freshman year it was a really successful one," Edu says. "I had to adjust to the skill level and the athleticism and the speed of the players. Everyone in the States aspires to be a D1 player so I had to take advantage of the opportunity every game and make sure I don’t take it for granted."
Playing against older competitors, he adds, will serve him in good stead as he teams up with the towering and stronger Kai Sotto in the upcoming tournament.
“Some of these guys are still playing in their age group or younger, while for me, I’ve been playing against people who are like 22 or 23 so I mean I feel like the experience of guarding players who are older than you will really help me.”
Edu, who played for the national team at the 2018 Fiba Under-18 Asian Championship where he led the Philippines to a fourth-place finish in Thailand, also noted that he has learned so much in his second year with the Gilas program.
Aside from the level of play, he has learned to adjust to the very hot weather in the Philippines.
“I feel like when I’m doing [better] in my individual workouts in the morning in this type of weather,” he said. Hydration he also adds is key.
“That's the main thing. When I first came in, I made sure I was drinking plenty of water. I remember last year I didn’t do it. So coming this year I know the stuff that I should do to drink well and get enough sleep.”