MANILA, Philippines -- A brand new Gilas Pilipinas Youth squad gets its baptism of fire early Tuesday morning, when they take on Kuwait at the Gharafa Sports Club Multi-Purpose Hall in Doha.
The squad no longer features the likes of Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, or Forthsky Padrigao when they see action in the 2022 FIBA Under-16 Asian Championships.
Instead, new faces such as Lebron Nieto, Jared Bahay, and Caelum Harris will take on the starring role for the Gilas Youth.
Calling the shots for the team is Josh Reyes.
"We will still be one of the shorter teams when we go there. If you just look at it on paper. We don’t have the imposing 6-8, 6-9, 7-foot guys the other teams have," said Reyes of the team.
"But I believe with how we play defensively as a team we’ve been able to mitigate those disadvantages," he added.
Nieto and Bahay will serve as co-captains of the squad. The former, a 5-foot-11 point guard, is the younger brother of former Gilas standouts Matt and Mike Nieto. The 6-foot-5 Harris, meanwhile, figures to be a marked man after having trained with the senior national team.
“I’m very excited. I know it’s a big opportunity to represent a country, especially a country that respects the game of basketball,” said Harris, who traces his roots to Cebu. “I’m more than happy and glad to face great opponents.”
Completing the squad are: Jacob Bayla, Apl Gemao, Jayden Jones, Kristian Porter, Sebastian Reyes, Mikhail Romero, Alexander Konov, and Lorenzo Competente. The three reserves selected were Joseph Pangilinan, Elijah Yusi, and Francis Veejay Pre.
Game time is at 1:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The team returns to action on Tuesday night, as they play Japan at 8:45 p.m.
The event serves as a qualifier to the 2022 FIBA Under-17 World Cup in July.
The top teams in all four pools will head directly to the quarterfinals, while the second and third-ranked teams will figure in a crossover knockout match to complete the top eight.
The semifinalists will punch a ticket to the World Cup.