Defending champion Batang Gilas Pilipinas starts its title-retention bid against Singapore at the start of the 2017 Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Under-16 Championship today at the Araneta Coliseum.
Game time is set 12 noon with Malaysia and Indonesia kicking off the five-nation tournament at 10 a.m.
The Philippines has won the first three editions of the competition and the Mike Oliver-mentored squad remains the favorite to rule the tournament where the top two nations represent SEABA in the 2017 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asian Championship.
The young Gilas quintet will be bannered by a tall frontline led by Ateneo de Manila University’s Kai Sotto, the 6’11 son of former pro Ervin Sotto, and 6’8 Geo Chiu, De La Salle Zobel’s 6’7 center Raven Cortez, San Beda’s 6’5 big man Joshua Lazaro and the 6’5 Bismarck Lina of University of Santo Tomas High School.
“We are all ready and excited to play tomorrow (today),” said Oliver, who took the coaching helm from former Batang Gilas coach Jamike Jarin three years ago. “We’re tall and quick, so we will use these advantages in this tournament.”
Oliver added that they wouldn’t take their opponents lightly as they are clueless as to what their rivals can bring.
“We have no idea what kind of opponent Singapore is, so we must just do the right thing to win,” he added.
The other members of the Batang Gilas squad are Recaredo Christian Calimag and Jose Miguel Pascual of San Beda, National University’s Terrence John Fortea, Rafael Go of Chiang Kai Shek, Lyceum’s Mclaude Guadana, Blue Eaglet Keith Sean Padrigao and Xavier’s Miguel Roy Tan.
In 2015, Batang Gilas won the same tournament in Cagayan de Oro City.
After Singapore, Batang Gilas will meet Indonesia on Monday then take a break on Tuesday. The PH 5 will face Thailand on May 17 and Malaysia the following day. All the games of Batang Gilas are set at 12 noon.