The new look Gilas Pilipinas youth squad gets its baptism of fire in the post-Kai Sotto era as it takes on Kuwait and Japan in the 2022 FIBA U16 Asian Championships at the Gharafa Sports Club Multi-Purpose Hall in Doha, Qatar.
Gilas plays Kuwait in the wee hours of Tuesday at 1:15 a.m. (Manila time) before it collides against Japan later in the evening at 8:15 p.m.
It will be the first time that the youth team sees action without the towering presence of the twin towers of 7-foot-3 Kai Sotto and 6-foot-11 AJ Edu although new faces in the likes of Caelum Harris, Jacob Bayla and Lebron Nieto are ready to take on the cudgels and lead Gilas to greater heights.
Harris is a 6-foot-5 athletic forward who has been invited already to the seniors pool along with country’s collegiate standouts while Bayla is a 6-foot-4 guard/forward who can provide the much needed length in the wing position.
Nieto, on the other hand, is a 5-foot-11 guard Ateneo High School product who hopes to follow the footsteps of his brothers Matt and Mike.
Although missing a couple of inches compared to the Gilas former twin towers, 6-foot-6 Fil-Canadian Zain Mahmood and 6-foot-5 Kristian Porter are out to man the paint for Filipinos.
Completing the squad are Jared Bahay, Aple Gemao, Jayden Jones, Sebastian Reyes, Mikhail Romero, Alexander Konov, and Lorenzo Competente while returning coach Josh Reyes will call the shots.
The three reserves selected were Joseph Pangilinan, Elijah Yusi and Francis Veejay Pre.
Gilas hopes to finish atop the group standings to get an outright quarterfinals berth. The semifinalists in the tournament will get a ticket to the 2022 FIBA U17 World Cup in July.