Philippine U16 cagers size up opposition first
NHA TRANG, Vietnam—The Energen Pilipinas Under-16 team gets to find out how tough the road to Asian supremacy is when the Fiba Asia U16 tournament unfolds Tuesday in this coastal city.
After drawing a bye on opening day, the Filipinos are expected to spend their free time sizing up their towering opponents in the seven-game kickoff program of the 15-nation tournament.
Defending champion China, intimidating as expected, tests its mettle against an Indian squad similarly boasting a 7-footer in the nightcap at 9 at the Khan Hoa Sports Center.
“They’re almost of the same height as their men’s team,” Philippine coach Olsen Racela said of the Chinese, who will parade Zhou Qi, the 15-year-old 7-footer touted as the next Yao Ming.
The Philippines kicks off its campaign against Indonesia at 7 p.m. (8 p.m. Manila time) tomorrow in Group D of the preliminary round.
“It’s really hard to scout under-16 teams because they don’t join too many tournaments, unlike in the men’s division,” said Racela. “But our schedule turned out to be good for us because we’ll be able to scout the opposition.”
The Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) champion, expected to cruise to the next round, takes on host Vietnam next on Thursday.
“They’re a strong team,” Vietnam coach Son Nguyen said of the Philippines. “But in the under-16 level, it’s hard to say who’ll come out as champion. Every team has a chance.”
The top two teams at the end of the tournament will represent Asia in the 2012 Fiba U17 World Championship from July 17 to 26 in Lithuania.
Racela said speed will be the main weapon of his relatively small team, which has an average height of 6-foot-1.
“We just have to speed up the game,” said Racela. “Since most of the teams are bigger, I anticipate them to be a little slower. They’ll be clogging the paint, so we’ll put our shooters to good use. We’ve really been practicing our quickness and outside shooting.”
Filipino-Australian wingman Jordan Heading (Morrison High School) leads the country’s bid to surpass its record fourth-place finish in the 2009 edition in Johor Bahru, Malayasia.
Rounding out the 12-man roster are Hubert Cani (National University), Henry Asilum (Sacred Heart-Ateneo de Cebu), Rev Diputado (San Beda), Kyles Lao (Xavier), Jay Javelosa (Reedley International), Nic Dalafu (Victory Christian International), Jay Alejandro (Mapua), Tomas Ramos (Ateneo), Prince Rivero (National University), Isaac Go (Xavier) and Andrei Caracut (San Beda). Reserves are Earl Murphy (Ateneo) and Daryl Pascual (Arellano).
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