Energen Philippine Youth five may miss key players | Inquirer Sports

Energen Philippine Youth five may miss key players

By: - Reporter / @jwpayoINQ
/ 10:04 PM October 01, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—The Energen Pilipinas Under-16 Youth Team may have earned the luck of the draw, but national coach Olsen Racela can’t enjoy it as he worries about the possibility of missing the services of his vital cogs in the Fiba Asia U16 tournament this month.

Bunched in Group D with Southeast Asian squads Indonesia and host Vietnam, the young Nationals are expected to cruise in the first round of the tournament pitting 15 of the top Asian teams from October 18 to 28 in Nha Trang City, Vietnam.

But the key players who powered the Philippines to the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) U16 championship may end up skipping the more important regional meet.

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“We might be smaller compared to our Seaba team where we had many bigs,” said Racela.

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Among the possible absentees are San Beda forward Arvin Tolentino, the Seaba best performer with averages of 19.5 points and eight rebounds, and La Salle Green Hills center Gelo Vito who led the Philippines to a title sweep of the regional qualifier in Malaysia last August.

The schools won’t release the players because the Asian tournament coincides with the semifinal and championship rounds of the NCAA juniors, where both San Beda and La Salle are in contention for the crown.

Several league officials have also cited academics as another reason which prevents schools from lending their players to the national squad.

“If we don’t have the height we’re going to take advantage of our quickness,” said Racela.

Defending champion China leads Group A that also has India, Malaysia and Chinese Taipei. Korea, Iraq, Uzbekistan and Lebanon battle in Group B, while Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Japan mix it up in Group C.

“If you have a light assignment in the first round it means you’re going to meet the stronger teams in the second round, so it’s not really going to be easy,” said Racela.

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“But again, the grouping doesn’t matter. It’s in the knockout stage in the quarters where we can’t afford to lose.”

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The top two teams in the tournament will represent Asia in the 2012 Fiba U17 World Championship from July 17 to 26 in Lithuania.

TAGS: Arvin Tolentino, Basketball, China, Chinese Taipei, Energen Pilipinas, Fiba U17 World Championship, Gelo Vito, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, La Salle Green Hills, Lebanon, Malaysia, Olsen Racela, Philippines, San Beda Red Cubs, SEABA, Sports, Vietnam

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