Gilas Cadets Kai Sotto and Ricci Rivero on Monday showed they can mix it up with PBA veterans June Mar Fajardo, Jayson Castro, and Alex Cabagnot.
Sotto and Rivero, part of the 20-man pool for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, worked out with the team at Meralco Gym and impressed coach Yeng Guiao.
"If you look at them playing with the veterans and the professionals, you won't notice they're still cadets," Guiao said after practice Monday.
Rivero was surprised to learn he was part of the pool and wants to make the most of the experience.
"Yes, fighting for a spot but what's really important is to learn," Rivero said.
Guiao sees the potential in Rivero and Sotto and is not ruling out the possibility the two make the final 12-man roster.
"You won't even notice they're five or six years younger than the rest of the guys. That's I think how mature and developed their games are. Of course there are still a lot of upside to it but today's the first day so they will keep on improving and keep getting better from here on," Guiao said.
While Rivero and Sotto are aiming for their first opportunity to play for Gilas, Troy Rosario is looking for a measure of redemption.
Rosario never thought he would get another national team call-up after his involvement in the Gilas-Australia brawl in July.
But he's back in the 20-man pool and eager for a fresh start.
"I was shocked, I didn't expect to be included in the national team pool after the incident [with Australia] at the Philippine Arena," Rosario said in Filipino. "But this is an opportunity to redeem myself. I admit, what we did was wrong but it's over and done with. We will focus on this new opportunity given to us."
The Gilas pool this time is loaded, headlined by four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, and Jayson Castro, and led by coach Yeng Guiao.
"I'm excited to play. It's a different feeling playing in the country. It gives you goosebumps when you're wearing the national team jersey. It will be my first time to wear this since the incident," Rosario said.
Gilas will host Kazakhstan on November 30 and Iran on December 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena. Rosario's suspension will keep him out until the game against Iran. Gilas is in third place in Group F at 5-3.