2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs Argentina
Enzo Flojo on Jun 30, 2019 08:44 PM
Dave Ildefonso and the rest of the Philippine squad must overcome a tough Argentina side (photo courtesy of FIBA.com)
It was a nightmare of a start for Gilas Youth on Day 1 of the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup as prized big man Ariel John Edu injured his knee in a very bad way barely two minutes into the first quarter of the team's tournament opener against host Greece.
And though the Philippines fought gallantly, even leading by seven points after the first canto, they just couldn't keep the Greeks at bay for long and succumbed to a deeper Hellas quintet by game's end, 85-69.
Now the Filipino boys face even stiffer competition against the 3rd best team from last year's 2018 FIBA U18 Americas Championship -- Argentina.
The Argentines landed on the U18 Americas podium just behind perennial powerhouse Team USA and defending U19 World Champion Canada. Led by Virginia big man Francisco Caffaro and head coach Maximiliano Seigorman, Argentina won four of their six games en route to their top three finish.
On Day 1 of the current U19 World Cup in Crete, Argentina had to scramble in the end to survive a big challenge from Russia in overtime, 86-84. Prolific guard Juan Ignacio Marcos paced the victors with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals, while Caffaro led them in scoring with 17 points on 7/12 FG shooting.
It's obvious that coach Sandy Arespacochaga's crew will have to focus on containing those two guys tonight, and that task will be made even more difficult with Edu's apparent ACL injury (compounded by a meniscus tear and hairline femur fracture).
That will effectively double the pressure on wunderkind Kai Sotto to do a yeoman's job around the basket while also throwing a wrench into the projected rotation of the Gilas Youth coaching staff.
Now back-up guys Geo Chiu and Carl Tamayo will have to work extra had and play extra minutes to fill Edu's void and complement Sotto's game as much as they can.
This is where Gilas Youth is feeling the pinch of a couple of key absences in the frontline. One is De La Salle-Zobel's 6'8" beanpole Raven Cortez, who could have given the team even more ceiling, length, and athleticism had it not been for his own needed recovery time in sick bay.
Another is 6'10" Filipino-American Quentin Millora-Brown, who just committed to US NCAA Division 1 program Vanderbilt. Millora-Brown was approached by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas officials to woo him into playing for Batang Gilas as early as 2016, but he just couldn't get his paperwork in order before his 16th birthday, rendering him ineligible to play as a local for the Philippines in the future.
A lot of pressure will also be on the Philippines' guards, namely Gerry Abadiano, Dave Ildefonso, and Miguel Oczon. They were solid against the Greeks last night, but it will take even better play from them if they hope to pull the rug from under Argentina tonight.
Even more crucial will be the play of Fil-Italian Dalph Panopio, who, at times, looked flustered last night and who seemed unsure of his place in the team's system. If Panopio bounces back with a big game tonight and cancels out Marcos's production, Gilas Youth will have a shot at a monumental upset.
After everything, though, needless to say as it may seem, much of the Pinoys' collective fate will rest on Sotto's shoulders. The 7'2" slotman had a respectable outing against Greece's generally smaller frontline, but against a big name like Caffaro, the former Blue Eaglet has to deliver the goods in a big way. It'll be easier said than done, of course, as Argentina is expected to thrown their platoon of bigs, which, apart from 7'0" Caffaro, also includes 6'9" Bautista Lugarini and two guys Sotto faced at last year's U17 World Cup -- Juan Francisco Fernandez and Tomas Chapero, both also standing 6'9".