Gilas Pilipinas’ program is not just for the men’s team — it goes all the way down to the youth level.
The goal is to mold and develop players and get them ready for the international game as early as 16 years old.
And two of the many products of this program are Juan Gomez de Liaño and Dave Ildefonso.
Just five years ago, the two were part of the Batang Gilas team that finished fifth in the FIBA Asia Under-16 tournament.
Now, they are all set to suit up for the senior’s team in the second window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
“For me, this is a dream come true. I’ve always thought about this moment since I was a kid — to serve and fight for our country; to make our people proud and unite as one; and [to] just give hope and inspiration to all of them.
“Just [playing] with hard work and dedication to what I love doing most is the greatest feeling. I’ve been really working my tail off, early mornings and late nights, all the struggles I’ve been through just to get to this point where I can represent my country again… [It’s] Truly an honor for me,” said Gomez de Liaño, who was also part of the 3×3 youth team a couple of years ago.
“It’s honestly a surreal experience to be a part of the seniors’ team. When I had my first ever Gilas stint in Batang Gilas, I never really dreamt of getting into the men’s team because I was happy that I even got into the youth team. If you asked me then if I saw myself getting into the team five years later, I would have said no. So I’m just really thankful to God for this opportunity,” added Ildefonso, who was part of the 5-on-5 youth team that competed in the Under-19 World Cup last year.
After 2015, Gomez de Liaño and Ildefonso went their separate ways.
And the two faced off in many heads-up match-ups in the UAAP, both in high school and in college.
Still, the bond the two built in Indonesia five years back has endured. And in Manama, they hope to show their chemistry once more when they face Thailand on Friday.
“Juan and I go way back, and what really started our friendship was Batang Gilas. We went to SEABA and FIBA Asia together. And it just flourished into a rivalry through years of playing against each other,” said Ildefonso, now 20 years old.
“It’s really a testament of the Batang Gilas program and how it works and how great it is.”
“Dave is my guy. He’s like a brother to me. I’ve seen his growth and improvement throughout the years. We both started out as benchwarmers, which definitely motivated us to focus on getting better each day to achieve our goals. You could tell that there’s a lot of hope and potential for Philippine basketball. Soon enough, we can compete at a high level,” continued the 21-year-old Gomez de Liano.