by Ernest Hernandez
The recently announced 20-man pool of Gilas Pilipinas features a mix of old and new faces. From the 37-year-old Arwind Santos to the 16-year-old Kai Sotto, the age gaps are noticeable.
Santos last played for the Powerade Team Pilipinas under Yeng Guiao which competed in the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship that finished 8th overall.
With this selection, the mentality of national team head coach Yeng Guiao wanted to win now and prepare the next generation of local players.
Among selected is the 33-year-old LA Tenorio of Barangay Ginebra who last played for the national team back in 2013. With the guard-loaded pool that includes Jayson Castro, Alex Cabagnot, Stanley Pringle and Scottie Thompson, Guiao is willing to test if the old gun is still working.
“They have just been playing well in the past few games,” Guiao referring to Tenorio’s performance in the PBA. “LA also has played for Gilas before so we would like to see LA in practice and how he blends together with the team. The same with Arwind.”
The pool also included two Gilas cadets: Kai Sotto and Ricci Rivero.
As part of the preparation for the future, Guiao would love to see how the two players compete against the national team athletes. For the 7-foot-1 Sotto, the national team head coach feels that his level of competition should be upgraded at this early stage.
“With Kai kasi, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Guiao said. “If he is there, I would like to see him play with the big boys and be able to accelerate his development.”
“Who knows? Baka gulatin tayo. Mamaya makuha siya sa top 12. We don’t know that. We have nothing to lose,” he adds. “I think Kai is our future and we are just trying to make use of the opportunity for him to be developed and upgrade the level of competition he has been playing in.”
“Dominado niya masyado yung high school, dominado din niya ang Under-18, so maybe it is time for him to try the big boys — or old boys, kasi big boy din siya,” Guiao jokes.
The first team practice of Gilas Pilipinas for the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers will start on November 12. For players whose mother teams are still in contention for the PBA Governor’s Cup semi-finals, they will be exempted to attend the first practices.