Philippine basketball officials see a very bright future for Gilas Pilipinas with the influx of tall and young Filipino teenagers who in a few years time can don the country’s colors in the senior level.
The likes of 6’11” Kai Sotto, 6’9″ AJ Edu, 6’9″ Ethan Kirkness, 6’9″ Kamaka Hepa and 6’6″ Kobe Paras might join established stars such as June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar to form the tallest Philippine squad ever.
“We try to get the best talent we have from the elite/senior teams all the way to our grassroots program, which is the pipeline of the future of Philippine basketball,” Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panilio said.
“With open arms, we welcome all potential players.”
But Panlilio knows that eligibility and availability issues will play a big part in the future of the national team. Sotto, Edu, Kirkness, Hepa and Paras all have dreams to make it big abroad.
For one, Hepa, who is based in Alaska in United States, may not be able to suit up for the Philippines as a local.
“Walang papeles,” said Andrew Teh, team manager of the Batang Gilas youth program. “Medyo napakalayo na ng connection. Isa pa, 16 na siya wala pa siyang Philippine Passport. Pero baka pwede siya as naturalized player.”
Despite that, SBP chairman and Sen. Sonny Angara said that he’s hoping that the Philippines, which has been undersized for so long, could field tall players in the years to come.
“It would be nice to have more size for the international tournaments where seven-footers are the norm and point guards and wings are commonly 6’3 and 6-7,” Angara said.