With the Energen Pilipinas youth team likely to face a China squad that banners a pair of giants in the FIBA Asia Under-18 Championship, coach Olsen Racela wants to shore up the squad’s frontline for the competition.
Seven-footers Wang Zhelin, who impressed a lot of basketball scouts in the Nike Hoops Summit, and Zhou Qi are expected to lord it over in the shaded lane against the opposition.
The 18-year-old Wang had been considered to be part of China’s team to the Olympics this year, but was cut because the team needed more shooters according to Hu Jiashi, vice president of the Chinese Basketball Association in an interview with Xinhua News Agency.
But Wang is expected to dominate against players his own age in the FIBA Asia tournament in Ulan Bator, Mongolia from Aug. 17 to 26.
Wang will likely play alongside 16-year-old Zhou, a lean but mobile center touted as the next coming of Yao Ming.
Zhou made his mark in last year’s FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship as he finished with 43 points, 19 rebounds and 12 blocks in a dominating performance in the finals against Korea.
Racela, who led the youth squad to a sweep en route to winning the title in the SEABA Youth Championship recently, is convinced the Chinese squad is a cinch to win the FIBA Asia tournament.
But the former San Miguel Beer standout said his team’s main target is to make it to the top three, which will be enough to qualify the Filipinos for the 2013 FIBA Under-19 World Championship.
“That’s the good thing about the youth squad. Mas malaki yung chances natin to qualify in the world tournament because unlike the men’s team where only the champion in the region qualifies, the youth championship offers three spots for the World Championship,” said Racela.
Racela said his current team’s tallest players, RR De Leon and Marc Olayon, stand 6-foot-5. He’s hoping that college teams will lend some of their players to bolster the youth squad.
“Ang ginagawa ko nga ngayon, I’ve been communicating with the schools and see kung puwede nila ipahiram even yung mga rookies nila na alam kong hindi masyadong gagamitin sa UAAP or NCAA. At least, makakatulong rin sila sa amin sa youth team,” said Racela.
The last incarnation of the Philippine Under-18 team, bannered by current UAAP stars Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Ferrer, finished fifth in the 2010 edition of the FIBA Asia youth tilt.
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