We are young | Inquirer Sports

We are young

Youthful Gilas Pilipinas standouts ready to burn bright, set world on fire amid injuries, withdrawals
/ 04:20 AM February 09, 2020

Injuries and withdrawals have hit Gilas Pilipinas as it prepares for the first window of the Fiba Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers. Christian Standhardinger is out and so is Japeth Aguilar—depriving the Nationals much needed ceiling, talent and leadership. But the unfortunate incidents have also lifted the veil off the youngsters in the national pool, and Isaac Go is one of the guys eager to face the challenge.

“Given the opportunity, I’ll just take advantage of [the situation],” he told reporters during a scrum at the sidelines of a recent national team practice session.

“Of course, we’re missing two great players,” the 6-foot-8 Go added. “Both have served the national team for a long time and have been successful in doing so. But knowing the basketball minds of coach Mark (Dickel) and [Gilas Pilipinas program director] Tab (Baldwin), they’ll make it work and find a way.”


As Baldwin and Dickel prepare the pool for a home game against Thailand on Feb. 20 and a road match against Indonesia three days later, they are also laying the foundation for the team that will eventually represent the country in the 2023 World Cup by establishing some sort of winning culture.


And that’s why you’ll find a relatively young Kiefer Ravena, 26, taking on some sort of a leadership role for the younger players in the pool.


“It was like how LA (Tenorio), Jimmy (Alapag) and Jayson (Castro) was toward me when I first entered the [senior’s program],” Ravena said. “I’m trying to be those guys now preparing [these youngsters] mentally and physically for international play.”

The absence of Standhardinger and Aguilar and the uncertainty of Ray Parks Jr. who is grappling with issues with his PBA club, TNT, are certainly creating opportunities for the young kids in the national pool. On Saturday, Mac Belo also withdrew from the pool to rehab an injured knee. But Go thinks there’s a lot of talent left for the first window.

“This is a good group of guys. We are not lacking in skilled players,” he said.

Ateneo teammate Thirdy Ravena, Kiefer’s younger brother, is among those skilled players in the pool. Thirdy said a recent stint with the Mighty Sports club that won a championship in a Dubai tournament would prove invaluable as he hopes to make the final roster for the coming Fiba window.

[I]t’s kind of like being in the pros on an international level,” he said. “It’s an invaluable thing that we’ve experienced [as a young athlete].”


And then there’s older brother Kiefer, who is always ready to share all the experience he has amassed at a young age.

“It’s a whole different world once you go international. I was able to witness that first-hand, playing at the highest level of the game of basketball,” said the NLEX guard, who played for the country in last year’s World Cup in China.

Whatever happens, the country’s young stars are eager to prove their worth.

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“I hope that I make [the cut],” Go said. “If not, I fully trust decision.”

TAGS: Basketball, Gilas Pilipinas, Isaac Go, Sports

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