Despite using only six players from their pool, the Gilas Cadets played well in their 70-54 win over Batang Gilas during a tune-up between the two young national squads on Friday night at the Kerry Sports basketball gym in Taguig.
The Cadets, comprised of players from the "23 for 2023" pool and college, were represented by Thirdy Ravena, Matt Nieto, Will Gozum, Prince Rivero, Kobe Paras, and new addition Troy Rike, a Filipino-American. Versatile forward Ricci Rivero was also on the squad, but had to sit out due to a stiff neck. These Cadets are currently competing in the 12th Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup presented by Chooks-to-Go, a summer tournament for college teams.
Even though they were undermanned, the Cadets were clearly more athletic and experienced. Paras led the way with 22 points while Ravena notched 17 points.
The game wasn't merely a showcase of the best amateur stars in the country, but also served to develop and improve the young players.
The Batang Gilas are gearing up for the 2018 FIBA U-17 World Cup in Argentina this summer and the exhibition match against the Cadets was a welcome sight, despite the loss.
"We've been making good progress. I think we are 70 percent right now. That was our first game with our new system," said Batang Gilas assistant coach Josh Reyes. The U-17 team booked a ticket to the World Cup thanks to a fourth place finish in the FIBA U-16 Asian Championship earlier this year.
Chot Reyes, the seniors head coach, was pleased with the showing of the two young squads.
"We wanted to get Troy some games with the players, with this team," Chot Reyes said of Rike, who only arrived in the Philippines last Monday. "But other than that, it was really for Batang Gilas and as you see, they're a tough bunch. They fight. They don't back down."
"Obviously when they're matched up against Thirdy and Matt, who are third year and fourth year college, you can see the advantages," Chot Reyes added. "But I'm very happy with this group of guys."
Towering big man Kai Sotto led Batang Gilas with 12 while Yukien Andrada chipped in with 10 points.
Overall, Chot Reyes was proud of the progress of the next generation of national team players.
"Like I said it's a program. As part of the program, for guys like Kai, it's important for him to get games like this," he said of the 7-foot-1 Sotto, who is part of both Batang Gilas and the Cadets. "He also feels part of the team because that's where he will really improve."