By Jerome Lagunzad
Although the team is still lacking the desired height and heft to go mano-a mano with the top guns, Batang Gilas coach Mike Oliver and his boys are determined to pull off big surprises in the FIBA Under-17 Basketball World Cup in Argentina later this month.
The Nationals, who finished fourth overall in the FIBA Asia qualifiers in Foshan, China last April, hope the addition of touted forwards, Carl Tamayo and Bismarck Lina, as well as crafty guards Gerry Abadiano and Migs Pascual in the pool will answer some of their concerns in the event set June 30-July 8 cage spectacle in Rosario and Sante Fe, Argentina.
“We really need some additional height,” Oliver, 45, told Tempo-Bulletin in a phone interview yesterday. “Although we have Kai Sotto (who stands at 7-foot-2), we still need taller wing players so we can avoid mismatches on the defensive end.”
That could be addressed if and when Tamayo, a 6-foot-7 National University standout who thrives on both forward positions, gets the nod for the “Final 12” which will be selected two days prior to the start of the 16-team tournament.
“If ever Carl makes it to the team, I think the team will benefit in height and at least, we will have less things to worry about in terms of defensive switches. He can actually play the 3 and 4 spots and that’s what he’s been doing with the Gilas cadets,” said Oliver.
The 6-foot-4 Lina, cousin of current Barangay Ginebra standout Kevin Ferrer, along with Abadiano and Pascual, both 5-foot-11 guards, could also make strong cases for the “Final 12” selection since had their fair share in Batang Gilas’ complete dominance of the SEABA Under-16 Championships in Manila last year.
While Sotto, the reigning FIBA Asia U-16 MVP, is already assured of his place in the “Final 12,” Raven Cortez, Forthsky Padrigao, RC Calimag, Terrence Fortea, Joshua Lazaro, Geo Chiu, Yukien Andrada, Mac Guadana, Jerick Bautista, King Balaga and Rafael Go are all eager to earn their respective spots.