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With just 7 pros on Gilas, spotlight will shine on 2023 World Cup building blocks

/ 04:50 AM February 21, 2020

A window of opportunity awaits the young members of Gilas Pilipinas who gear up for battle against Indonesia for the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers on Sunday.

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With only seven pros making the squad for the game scheduled at Jakarta’s Britama Arena, the young amateurs tapped for national team duties will shoulder a lot of responsibilities—which will include laying the foundation for the country’s buildup for the 2023 World Cup.

“We felt that PBA players we picked gave us a really, really good base to build off. And then the other five younger players can complement them,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Mark Dickel.

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It’s a perfect game for the young stars to get their first crack at playing for the senior national team. While Indonesia is far from matching the Philippines’ talent pool, the host squad is still strong enough to force the young amateurs of Gilas Pilipinas to grow up fast.

“They’ve proven to be a tough opponent,” Dickel said when he announced the roster for the Indonesia game on Wednesday night.

Indonesia will miss two key players in Lester Prosper and Brandon Jawato, who are still working on their naturalization papers. But the Rajko Toroman-mentored side did give an all-pro Philippine team a few worries early in their Southeast Asian Games duel before crumbling in the second half.

This means a young Philippine squad cannot take it easy. Amateur stars Isaac Go and Matt Nieto, Ateneo stalwarts who were drafted in the PBA for this season, Eagles teammates Thirdy Ravena and Dwight Ramos and University of the Philippines’ Juan Gomez de Liaño will be part of Gilas Pilipinas against Indonesia.

The squad will even be led by a young skipper in Kiefer Ravena, who will spearhead the pro group made up of Gilas veterans RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Poy Erram, CJ Perez and Abu Tratter and Gilas first-timer Justin Chua.

The young Gilas members will also serve as the building blocks for the country’s campaign in the World Cup, which will be held here and in cohosts Indonesia and Japan. But Dickel warned against looking too far ahead past the match against the Indonesians.

“Especially with them playing on their home court, I anticipate the game being really difficult,” Dickel added. “They are not going to give it to us.”

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Prosper, a former PBA import, and the US-born Jawato would’ve provided the hosts size that could come in handy against a Gilas side that will miss key big men with June Mar Fajardo injured, Greg Slaughter taking a basketball sabbatical and Christian Standhardinger opting to rest his battered body.

Dickel is optimistic that the mix of veterans and young guns will serve Gilas Pilipinas well for Sunday’s game.

“We feel this will give us the best chance in this window to do well,” he said.

Gilas’ home game against Thailand, which was earlier shelved by Fiba due to the coronavirus outbreak, has yet to get a new date.

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TAGS: Basketball, FIBA Asia Cup, Gilas Pilipinas, Sports
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