2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs China

Enzo Flojo on Jul 06, 2019 02:30 PM
2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs China
Can coach Sandy Arespacochaga's wards remain motivated enough to win against China tonight and then book another W against either Senegal or New Zealand tomorrow?

After losing its fifth game in a row at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, Gilas Youth has been relegated to the 13th-16th place classification matches. It's not the best proposition for a team that was billed to make a big splash on the biggest stage of youth basketball in the world, but considering the major setback of AJ Edu's ACL injury, the squad's current position isn't at all that surprising. 

It's a little familiar, in fact, since the Gilas Youth team that competed at last year's U17 World Cup fell into the exact same spot, and interestingly enough, this is the phase of the competition where that unit played at its best. I should know, because I was there in Santa Fe, Argentina to witness the U17 team net back-to-back wins over Egypt and New Zealand, ending its campaign on a very strong note. 

Some members of this U19 squad were actually part of that U17 team: Kai Sotto, Carl Tamayo, Gerry Abadiano, and Terrence Fortea. They know that despite their handful of defeats, they can still turn the tables of their Greek crusade with a pair of wins and finish at 13th spot. 

Will that actually happen, though? Can coach Sandy Arespacochaga's wards remain motivated enough to win against China tonight and then book another W against either Senegal or New Zealand tomorrow?

Right off the bat, China is a pretty even matchup for the Philippines. We faced this team at last year's U18 Asia Cup twice, beating them in the group phase, 73-63, but losing to them in the battle for 3rd place, 76-57.

That makes this encounter a veritable rubber match in the rivalry between these two sides, and it's made more interesting by the fact that each team will be missing a key cog. 

Gilas Youth lost Edu to a devastating injury on Day 1 of the competition, while China's own US NCAA big man, Michael Wang, has not been playing at full health. The 6'10 UPenn forward has played a total of just 12 minutes across two matches, averaging a paltry 1.0 point per contest, which is a far cry from his 20.0 points, 13.0 rebounds per game last year. Though China has been tight-lipped about his condition, it's clear that Wang has been hampered by something quite serious in Greece and isn't expected to see action against the Philippines. 

That means it'll be up to the trio of Jiang Haoran, Zhou Ji, and Jiao Boqiao to try and slow down Gilas's 7'2” behemoth, Kai Sotto, who continues to be among the top 10 most efficient players in Heraklion, norming 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks per game while shooting 51% from the floor. The one knock on Kai, however, has been his free throw shooting. The former Ateneo slotman is hitting just 50% of his charities, which certainly makes it tempting for China's frontcourt platoon to hack away at Sotto's wiry frame. 

Still, there's no reason why Kai shouldn't put up a double-double here. Unlike the Euro and Aussie bigs he's had to face the last few games, Kai won't be at a significant disadvantage in heft and agility against China's centers and forwards. If there's one game where Kai should have a monster outing, this is it. 

Out in the perimeter, though, China has the edge. Dave Ildefonso has been pretty good, yes, but remember that China has in its arsenal the leading scorer of the entire field, 6'7 small forward Guo Haowen, who has been a relentless offensive machine. Already seeing action for pro team Bayi Rockets in the CBA, Guo has been on a tear, scoring in double-digits in every single match for the Chinese, including dropping 34 big ones on Puerto Rico in a huge upset win. Ildefonso and James Spencer will have their work cut out for them as they try to slow down this scoring machine. 

In the backcourt, meanwhile, Gerry Abadiano will go head-to-head with China's defensive dynamo and playmaking wizard Xu Jie. Abadiano has the more mature physical frame and more varied offensive repertoire, but Xu has been outstanding on both ends of the floor so far in this competition. The 5'11 Chinese floor general started slow on Days 1 & 2, but he has picked up his production, averaging 15.7 points, 5.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 3.7 steals, and 2.7 triples per game since. If Abadiano can match Xu's play in this outing, Gilas will have a good shot of notching their first win of the tournament. 

2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs China

After losing its fifth game in a row at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, Gilas Youth has been relegated to the 13th-16th place classification matches. It's not the best proposition for a team that was billed to make a big splash on the biggest stage of youth basketball in the world, but considering the major setback of AJ Edu's ACL injury, the squad's current position isn't at all that surprising. 

It's a little familiar, in fact, since the Gilas Youth team that competed at last year's U17 World Cup fell into the exact same spot, and interestingly enough, this is the phase of the competition where that unit played at its best. I should know, because I was there in Santa Fe, Argentina to witness the U17 team net back-to-back wins over Egypt and New Zealand, ending its campaign on a very strong note. 

Some members of this U19 squad were actually part of that U17 team: Kai Sotto, Carl Tamayo, Gerry Abadiano, and Terrence Fortea. They know that despite their handful of defeats, they can still turn the tables of their Greek crusade with a pair of wins and finish at 13th spot. 

Will that actually happen, though? Can coach Sandy Arespacochaga's wards remain motivated enough to win against China tonight and then book another W against either Senegal or New Zealand tomorrow?

Right off the bat, China is a pretty even matchup for the Philippines. We faced this team at last year's U18 Asia Cup twice, beating them in the group phase, 73-63, but losing to them in the battle for 3rd place, 76-57.

That makes this encounter a veritable rubber match in the rivalry between these two sides, and it's made more interesting by the fact that each team will be missing a key cog. 

Gilas Youth lost Edu to a devastating injury on Day 1 of the competition, while China's own US NCAA big man, Michael Wang, has not been playing at full health. The 6'10 UPenn forward has played a total of just 12 minutes across two matches, averaging a paltry 1.0 point per contest, which is a far cry from his 20.0 points, 13.0 rebounds per game last year. Though China has been tight-lipped about his condition, it's clear that Wang has been hampered by something quite serious in Greece and isn't expected to see action against the Philippines. 

That means it'll be up to the trio of Jiang Haoran, Zhou Ji, and Jiao Boqiao to try and slow down Gilas's 7'2” behemoth, Kai Sotto, who continues to be among the top 10 most efficient players in Heraklion, norming 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks per game while shooting 51% from the floor. The one knock on Kai, however, has been his free throw shooting. The former Ateneo slotman is hitting just 50% of his charities, which certainly makes it tempting for China's frontcourt platoon to hack away at Sotto's wiry frame. 

Still, there's no reason why Kai shouldn't put up a double-double here. Unlike the Euro and Aussie bigs he's had to face the last few games, Kai won't be at a significant disadvantage in heft and agility against China's centers and forwards. If there's one game where Kai should have a monster outing, this is it. 

Out in the perimeter, though, China has the edge. Dave Ildefonso has been pretty good, yes, but remember that China has in its arsenal the leading scorer of the entire field, 6'7” small forward Guo Haowen, who has been a relentless offensive machine. Already seeing action for pro team Bayi Rockets in the CBA, Guo has been on a tear, scoring in double-digits in every single match for the Chinese, including dropping 34 big ones on Puerto Rico in a huge upset win. Ildefonso and James Spencer will have their work cut out for them as they try to slow down this scoring machine. 

In the backcourt, meanwhile, Gerry Abadiano will go head-to-head with China's defensive dynamo and playmaking wizard Xu Jie. Abadiano has the more mature physical frame and more varied offensive repertoire, but Xu has been outstanding on both ends of the floor so far in this competition. The 5'11 Chinese floor general started slow on Days 1 & 2, but he has picked up his production, averaging 15.7 points, 5.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 3.7 steals, and 2.7 triples per game since. If Abadiano can match Xu's play in this outing, Gilas will have a good shot of notching their first win of the tournament. 

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