After four years, Josh Reyes is back as head coach of Gilas Youth.
Reyes will make his return to the youth team when it figures in the 2022 FIBA Under-16 Asian Championship, set to take place from June 12-19 in Doha, Qatar.
For Reyes, returning to the program is not about settling some unfinished business. It’s more of rebuilding the program that stopped because of the ongoing COVID-18 pandemic.
“I’m just heeding the call of the SBP,” Reyes told Tiebreaker Times. “I know coach Sandy [Arespecochaga] had a lot of time away from his family because of the bubbles. I’m just happy to be helping out the SBP.”
Since April 27, Gilas Youth have been holding tryouts for the pool.
More than 50 elite prospects attended the sessions. And for that, Reyes is grateful.
“I’m very happy because the parents allowed their children to try out even if the pandemic is still here,” he expressed. “The parents were there to support because it might be their kid’s shot at representing the country.”
After several stages of tryouts, the pool is down to 18 players.
Consisting the backcourt are 5-foot-9 Jared Bahay (Sacred Heart-Ateneo de Cebu), 5-foot-10 Dwyne Miranda (FEU-Diliman), 5-foot-11 Lebron Nieto (Ateneo High School), 6-foot Elijah Yusi (Nazareth School of National University), 6-foot-1 Andy Gemao (NSNU), 6-foot-1 Santi Romero (La Salle Green Hills), 6-foot-1 JP Pangilinan (UST), 6-foot-2 Jayden Jones (Desert Oasis HS), and 6-foot-2 Renzo Competente (Citrus Valley HS).
Completing the squad are 6-foot-2 CJ Amos (Brisbane State HS), 6-foot-4 Veejay Pre (FEU-D), 6-foot-4 Jacob Bayla, 6-foot-4 Inigo Torres (Lyceum), 6-foot-5 Caelum Harris (Stewart Creek HS), 6-foot-5 Kristian Porter (AHS), 6-foot-5 Alex Konov (Manasquan HS), 6-foot-5 Basti Reyes (College of Sciences, Technology, and Communications), and 6-foot-6 Zain Mahmood (Al Red HS).
Amos, 15, though has yet to receive his Philippine passport while Konov will only arrive in the country on May 26.
Though not having the ceiling the previous generation of Gilas Youth had, Reyes hopes that the skills and athleticism of this batch will make up for it come the competition that has been delayed for the past two years.
“We don’t have the towering players like the past generation that had Kai [Sotto], AJ [Edu], Geo [Chiu], and Raven [Cortez] but we have a healthy size in the middle. The only thing is the other teams have seven-footers and the six-tens,” he said.
“Hopefully, our athleticism and how we are preparing can make up for that.”
Composing Reyes’ staff are JB Sison, Rob Labagala, Cholo Villanueva, Gilbert Lao, Sandro Soriano, Enzo Flojo, Martin Alido, and Moreen Ortiz while Dean Castano will serve as team manager.
Gilas Youth is slotted in Group C in the tournament along with Japan and Kuwait.
Reyes is hoping to figure in tuneups against the country’s top collegiate varsity teams and under-21 clubs before they leave for Qatar.
Moreover, if the team is allowed to leave early, the young head coach has already set up some friendlies in Doha.
“It’s tough to gauge and not being able to compete in the SEABA setting, there are still a lot of unknowns. But it’s my job to worry.”