Marikina caging a haven for Gilas jrs
THE Marikina City Basketball League, the hotbed of basketball in the East, has become a perfect sanctuary for the Batang Gilas-under 16 squad preparing for the FIBA Asia Cup early next year.
Not only is the national youth team starting to build up its chemistry, it is also toughening up for the World Under-17 Championship qualifier by facing more experienced rivals, who previously saw action in the PBA and PBA D-League.
Head coach Mike Oliver considers this tournament as a good way to equip his squad once the team meets taller and bulkier opponents in the FIBA Asia Under-16 tourney.
“Very important itong ligang ito para sa preparations ntin. This will be one of the last two tournaments na lang na puwede natin salihan bago mag FIBA Asia,” said Oliver. “Dito natin makikita kung ano ang kulang natin sa system na nira-run natin at the same time, makikita din natin mga kailangan pa nating i-develop offensively and defensively.”
In the MCBL, Batang Gilas will play without 6’11”, 14-year-old stalwart Kai Sotto, who wasn’t allowed by his mother school, Ateneo, to play in the commercial league but was given an assurance that he will be released by the institution in time for the FIBA Asia tournament.
Without Sotto, the Batang Gilas squad had to rely on its other key players led by mainstays RC Calimag, Renz Padrigao and MacLaud Guadana among others.
In the team’s last outing, Batang Gilas lost to R. Lapid’s/Tito Rex, 83-77.
Oliver, however, is satisfied with the way how his team was able to push its more experienced counterparts to the limit and maximize its main weapons needed in international tournaments.
“Yes, offensively we have firepower from the outside and that’s one of the most important things in FIBA tournaments. The only way we can beat other countries will be our speed and outside shooting,” said Oliver.