Despite the Gilas Pilipinas Youth team 14th-place finish in the recent FIBA Under-19 World Cup, coach Sandy Arespacochaga said he was happy with the way the squad performed.
“It was tough. Each game was like a championship game. You could see it’s weird parang makikita mong malapit na tayo, kaya nating lumaban. But at the same time malayo pa, parang ganu’n. It’s a weird feeling,” Arespacochaga said in an interview on CNN Philippines Thursday.
“Definitely world international basketball is a bit different with the way we play in the Philippines.”
Fans were expecting a potent tandem between rising Pinoy big men Kai Sotto and AJ Edu, but the team lost Edu two minutes into their first game against Greece.
“Most of the time we’re already stepping up for AJ Edu, who we lost in an unfortunate incident, he had an ACL injury. I’m very proud of the boys for stepping up,” said the coach.
“Definitely (Edu’s presence) would have made things easier for Kai because after that Kai was the No. 1 target in the post for all of our opponents. AJ’s value is not just for the stats, he’s one of our best defenders, he covers for a lot of mistakes, he developed a great 3-point shot also.”
With the absence of Edu, other players such as Dave Ildefonso and Carl Tamayo rose to the occasion and showed what they could do.
“The biggest take is we have talented players, but also we need more time for preparation and we need to upgrade the level of basketball here in the Philippines,” Arespacochaga said.
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