The Philippine national youth basketball team may be parading its tallest lineup in years, but head coach Michael Oliver believes guard play will remain as their lethal weapon in the upcoming SEABA Under-16 Championship.
The coach made the statement despite having 6-foot-11 Kai Sotto, the 14-year-old son of former PBA player Ervin Sotto, to lead the Batang Gilas frontline which will be tested in the FIBA Asia level should they win the SEABA crown.
“We’re still relying on our speed because compared to other countries we’re still smaller kapag tumapat sa kanila,” Oliver told InterAksyon.com.
Oliver said Batang Gilas guards are still the team’s anchors.
“We’re relying sobra sa guards namin like Rence Padrigao, Migs Pascual, RC Calimag and Terrence Fortea, the bulk of our production comes from our guards. Talented talaga mga guards namin,” added Oliver.
Padrigao and Pascual are the co-captains of the squad. Calimag is the son of former PBA player Ricky Calimag while Fortea comes from National University and one of the Bullpups’ stalwarts.
Apart from Sotto, three other tall players – 6-foot-7 Sean Chiu of PACE, 6-foot-6 Raven Cortez of La Salle-Zobel and 6-foot-5 Bismark Lina of UST – are also shoring up Batang Gilas.
Oliver said he has advised his guards to get their frontcourt teammates going in offense to create an inside-out game for the Philippines.
“I told them to try to involve our big guys because this is the only time we can go sa post area. We never had big men before,” Oliver said.
Batang Gilas has been training for three and a half months. The team participated in the Got Skills Competition and the annual Fr. Martin’s Cup as they try to build chemistry for the SEABA U-16 in Manila this May.
“Hindi pa ganun ka-ready ang team in learning our system. Our camaraderie is not yet solid, malaking tulong ito sa pag-join namin sa SEABA,” Oliver said.
“Big factor yung support ng countrymen natin, yung mga friends, but there’s also that pressure to perform in front of them.”