WHO will take over the slots of the towering Gilas Pilipinas Youth players who made the team very formidable in the past?
While maintaining that other young Filipino dribblers have the talent, coach Sandy Arespacochaga admitted the team will lack ceiling in the future.
“If we’re going to compete internationally, just looking at the talent that we have, we have talented players,” said Arespacochaga in the Coaches Unfiltered podcast presented by SMART and supported by Mighty Sports and Choi Garden.
“But the 7-footers, sila Kai (Sotto) and that generation, wala na,” he added.
While the 7-foot-2 Sotto, 18, will still be eligible to play for Under-18 tourneys along with 6-foot-7 Raven Cortez, the rest of the team’s towering frontlines – 6-foot-10 Fil-Nigerian AJ Edu, 6-foot-7 Carl Tamayo, and 6-foot-8 Geo Chiu – are done with the Gilas Youth U-18 squad.
Edu, who is proving his worth with University of Toledo in the US, is already 20 years old, while Tamayo and Chiu are both 19 and will turn 20 next year.
“Of course, sa under-18, hindi pa tapos si Kai (Sotto) and Raven Cortez. But after these two, wala na tayong malalaki,” explained Arespacochaga.
Sotto is set to suit up for the new select team in the NBA G League.
With the frontline core of Sotto, Edu, Tamayo, and Chiu, Gilas Youth wound up fourth in the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship in Nonthaburi, Thailand and advanced to the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece last year.
Arespacochaga insisted that aside from skills, Gilas Youth will need time and a lot more to become one cohesive unit.
“Wala na tayong malalaki, so I think we should come up with a team na hindi lang basta collection ng talented players,” explained Arespacochaga, also the lead assistant coach of Tab Baldwin at Ateneo in the UAAP.
“We have to come up with a team that has been practicing for a long time and has been practicing together to come up with a really strong team in order for us to compete internationally.”
Among those still in the national youth team pool are the likes of Kenji Duremdes, son of former pro league MVP and current MPBL Commissioner Kenneth; Echo Laure, son of PBA veteran Eddie; and Jordi Gomez de Liaño, the younger brother of University of the Philippines standouts Juan and Javi.
Arespacochaga is not one to back down from challenges, however.
“I think that’s the challenge given to us in our situation with the youth program,” he said.
“Of course, we’ve got to expand the talent identification of young players throughout the country and internationally.”