Calimag, Batang Gilas unfazed of France and NBA prospect Hayes
Going head-to-head with some of the world’s best teams doesn’t send chills down RC Calimag’s spine. Matching up against potential NBA players doesn’t make the Philippines’ gutsy guard flinch either.
Batang Gilas faces its biggest challenge yet less than two weeks from now as it competes in the Fiba Under-17 World Cup where Croatia, Argentina and France, led by European sensation Killian Hayes await.
Calimag and the rest of the team, though, have no reason to fear.
“We’re motivated because coach told us that the No. 1 player in Europe Killian Hayes is there, but we don’t care if he’s also in the same group as ours,” Calimag told INQUIRER.net in Filipino on Monday during the team’s sendoff dinner.
“We’re just here to play our game. We’re also basketball players like him so why get scared? We prepared really hard so we can’t go there and be scared. We’re just going to fight and play with heart.”
Killian Hayes was named MVP in the Europe Under-16 Championship after leading France to the gold medal.
The French-American guard is just one of the many potential NBA talents in the tournament and for Batang Gilas center Kai Sotto, playing against world class opponents brings out the competitor in him.
“There’s pressure but for me, we have to use that as our motivation to work harder for us to know what we’re really made of,” Sotto said in Filipino.
The 7-foot-1 Sotto also gave his teammates an important reminder heading into te tournament.
“This is a different experience to be able to play against the best of the best, but hopefully, we won’t forget that we are also among the best of the best,” Sotto said in Filipino. “We just have to be confident in ourselves and do what we can. If we work together we’ll be able to reach our goal.”
More than talent and the Xs and Os, Batang Gilas assistant coach Josh Reyes said the players should believe that they can defy the odds.
“We should believe. We can’t go there thinking that we can’t win. Otherwise, why else are we going through all this?” said Reyes.
“These are your peers, of course, you’re saying you’ll be battling future NBA players but who knows? There might be a future NBA player here and you being exposed to the world stage can help you achieve that as long as you’ll be putting in the work and believe that we can compete.”
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