Gilas Youth's preparations for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup are underway.
With twin towers Kai Sotto and AJ Edu back in the Philippines following their respective stints in the US, the national youth team is going all out in gearing for the world meet from June 29 to July 7 in Greece.
Three training sessions in, however, the 14-man pool is yet to be at full strength.
In their third practice last Tuesday at the Meralco Gym in Ortigas, Gerry Abadiano, Terrence Fortea, Carl Tamayo, and Dalph Panopio were not present - the three Nazareth School of National University Bullpups were in China for the Nike All-Asia Camp while Panopio was still in Italy.
Still, head coach Sandy Arespacochaga was nothing but glad with what he has been seeing. "We had 10 players so that's a good number already for us. We just want to continue working hard," he said.
The good news is that Abadiano, Fortea, and Tamayo are all expected to join Gilas Youth training sessions starting Wednesday. Panopio, however, will not be able to come home to the Philippines and will only be with the team once they commence their training camp in Doha.
Of course, being grouped together with world no. 9 Argentina, no. 15 Greece, and no.19 Russia in the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup itself, coach Sandy is well aware that no less than perfect preparation is needed. As he put it, "The pressure we feel is the pressure to prepare well against our opponents because we've got strong opponents. In a way, that's good because it forces us to have excellent practices and to do better each time."
He then continued, "That's the good kind of pressure that, hopefully, will help these guys get to the next level in terms of playing individually and also together as a team."
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.