|After their Argentina joust, Batang Gilas is ready to go in Thailand for the FIBA Asia U18 tourney. Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas|
QUEZON CITY -- After making waves in Argentina earlier in the year, Batang Gilas are looking to continue the upsurge in the older level at the FIBA Asia U18 Championship tipping off this weekend in Thailand.
In the send-off by Chooks-to-Go, head coach Josh Reyes was cautious at the chances as holdovers from Michael Oliver's squad from their historic stint in the FIBA U17 World Cup, including Ateneo High beanpole Kai Sotto were bolstered by Toledo's AJ Edu, making it the biggest lineup the country has ever witnessed.
"There's a really big expectation on this team, the pressure comes with that," Reyes said in the send-off Thursday afternoon in Bar One. "Just because you are the tallest team that doesn't mean you will be the best team out there."
Having a pair of talented bigs such as 6'10 Edu and 7'1 Sotto gave Batang Gilas a ceiling present the best opportunity to end a 39-year exile from the FIBA U19 World Cup, with their lone appearance was its inaugural staging of the tournament in 1979 where they placed 10th out of the dozen nations in Brazil.
That squad was led by now NCAA commissioner and former Crispa Redmanizer Bai Cristobal who was fourth leading scorer in that tournament, firing almost 19 points per outing.
For Chook-to-Go's Ronald Mascariñas, he saw the team matured in his own eyes as he hopes that the young dozen help the country heal those wounds of the sudden withdrawal in the Asian Games.
"But for you, you have great responsibilty rebuild the reputation of the country," he said. "If you do well and qualify for the FIBA World Cup, yung mga nagluluksang basketball fans ay baka maghilom ang sugat nila."
The man behind the country's most popular roast chicken added that the promise brought by them will be a driving factor for the country as it seeks to end nearly four decades of hurt.
"Kung may mas mataas pa sa first place, baka kaya nila."
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