Gilas youth crew raring to go
MANILA, Philippines — The Gilas youth brigade is ready for their baptism of fire in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers game against Indonesia tomorrow.
“Super excited to show what we’ve got as a team and, of course, sa akin ginagawa ko naman kung anong kailangan ng team, yung role ko sa team, and do it as perfect as I can para may matulong ako sa bayan,” said guard Matt Nieto, one of five collegiate standouts picked by coach Mark Dickel for the “away” assignment at Mahaka Square.
“Kung nagpapakamatay ako sa school ko sa Ateneo, paano pa kaya kung yung bayan ang nire-represent ko? Makikipagpalitan ako ng mukha or anything, basta hindi ako papatalo, pangako ko,” added the PBA draftee.
The feeling’s pretty much the same for center Isaac Go, his Ateneo batchmate.
“I got the chance to play for the national team during my youth period, with Energen (U-16 and U-18 squads) and with Mighty Sports and Ateneo in Dubai but going to the seniors program has a different ring to it so I’m excited really. I didn’t think I’d make it to this point so I’m happy to be here,” he said.
Go’s stint with Mighty in its recent championship run in the Dubai International Basketball Championship helped the 6-foot-7 youngster prime up for his first Gilas men’s duty.
“Having a chance to play against players from the Middle East, grown men, having a chance to compete with them helped me build up for this competition,” he noted.
Go and Nieto provide the young blood to a new-look Gilas crew along with fellow debutants Dwight Ramos and Juan Gomez de Liaño, and Thirdy Ravena, who had an initial stint with Gilas in one window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers in 2019.
To provide experience and guidance are PBA stalwarts and internationalists Kiefer Ravena, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, CJ Perez, Poy Erram, Abu Tratter and Justin Chua.
“Sana matulungan ko sila in terms of having the correct mindset, having the right approach to the game,” said Kiefer, who serves as team captain. “Siyempre since bago nga yan, magiging eager pa, may opening gigil pa yan so yun ang kailangan namin matanggal. We have to find that correct balance na kailangan naming magawa para makapaglaro kami nang maayos.”
Gilas held one last practice session yesterday afternoon before boarding their flight to Jakarta at 9 o’clock last night.