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The other Gilas team

BASKETBALL fans, who cheered and supported the Gilas Pilipinas basketball team in different parts of the world, had experienced the thrill of watching The Mighty Mouse Jimmy Alapag launch treys from way beyond the three-point arc and make them with consistency; of Gabe Norwood posterizing NBA center Luis Scola; Andray Blatche showing his all-around skills, and Paul Lee and Jayson Castro blowing by bigger defenders to come up with big plays.

That was the Gilas team everybody knew.

Meet the other Gilas—the Batang Gilas national team—composed of players 16-and-under, who will represent the country in the coming Southeast Asia Basketball Association tournament.

The team will be backstopped by Sam Josef Belangel, a big-time scorer from Tay Tung High School, where two-time PBA Most Valuable Player James Yap suited up.

Belangel is smaller than Yap, but he is described by Batang Gilas current coach Michael Oliver as “a boy in a man’s body.”

But what’s more intriguing with Belangel is the fact that he can shoot the lights out more than what Yap did when he was still a high school star. The kid once scored 99 points during a game in Bacolod much to the amazement Yap himself.

It’s too early to make a comparison now, but the fact that Belangel possesses a lot of potential means this current group of Batang Gilas he heads is worth the attention.

Aside from Belangel, the other vital cogs of the team, according to Oliver, are Gian Mamuyac of Ateneo and Will Gozum of University of the Philippines.

Mamuyac, just like Belangel, is another promising guard. He was a prized find in one of the Jr. NBA camps and for Oliver, the kid is already a proven talent having played for Ateneo in the UAAP.

“Subok na kasi natin si Mamuyac,” added Oliver. “With Mamuyac and Belangel plus the other guards in the line up, you can expect a fast-paced, pressing and hardworking team.”

Gozum, on the other hand, is a 6-foot-5 big man, who owns a decent touch from the perimeter.

The other members of the squad are Jed Colonia, Ralph Escalona, Juan Gomez de Liano, Gillian Flores, Rhayyan Amsali, Shaun Ildefonso, Romulo Berjay, Jonas Tibayan and Kris Harvey Pagsanjan.

The Batang Gilas team is set to showcase their skills in front of the Visayan crowd in the tournament to be hosted by Cagayan de Oro at the Xavier University gym in the event presented by SMART and MVP Sports Foundation and co-hosted by Mayor Oscar Moreno. 

Under-16 teams from Brunei, Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have already confirmed participation.

At stake in the tournament aside from continuing our legacy as champions of this tournament is a berth in the FIBA under-16 Championship.

Belangel vowed his team will do whatever it takes to give glory to the country and just like his idol from the Gilas team—Alapag and LA Tenorio—said he would make sure he will keep a hold the fort for the team until they reach their goal of winning the gold.  

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