Batang Gilas clear-cut favorite in 2016 SEABA U18 Championship

There are three 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship tickets up for grabs in the 2016 SEABA U18 Championship, which will commence in Medan, Indonesia later today.

The Philippines, dubbed Batang Gilas, are the clear favorites, especially since they have veteran shooting guard Jolo Mendoza, who was a revelation in the 2013 FIBA Asia U16 Championship and the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship. That’s not to say it will be a cakewalk, though, as home team Indonesia along with dangerous teams from Thailand and Malaysia are sure to come in well-prepared.

Having said that, let’s take a glance at each of the four main contenders’ rosters and try to give a reasonable prognosis for their upcoming performances.

* – veteran of previous SEABA/FIBA Asia tournaments.

BATANG GILAS
JB Bahio
Will Gozum*
Josh Sinclair
Jonas Tibayan*
Josh Flores
AJ Madrigal
Gian Mamuyac*
Pedrito Alfaro
Rendell Lee
Jolo Mendoza*
Fran Yu
Evan Nelle

– Coach Mike Oliver returns to helm Batang Gilas after steering them to a sweep of the 2015 SEABA U16 Championship and a respectable fifth place finish in the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship (including an historic win over China). As usual in the Philippines, coach Mike has had to contend with some players not getting clearances from their respective schools, so he’s forced to work with who has been cleared. Still, this doesn’t mean coach Mike will have a “watered down” level of talent in Medan. All things considered, Batang Gilas should still be among the deepest teams in the field. They are also bringing in a bit of size, what with some of their 6’4 players able to play as wingmen and not just traditional bigs. Co-Captains Mendoza and Gian Mamuyac are expected to carry much of the load, but collegiate players Fran Yu, JB Bahio, Josh Sinclair, and Josh Flores should also be given notice. Watch out, too, for NCAA Season 91 Juniors Finals MVP and Palarong Pambansa MVP Evan Nelle, who is looking to make a splash. At the end of the day, Batang Gilas is expected to be the title favorite.
TEAM THAILAND
Atikom Sapakong
Attapong Leelaphiphatkul*
Bunpot Tanrattana Phithak
Jdar Sonsem*
Kongpop Ruangsutham
Natthaworn Banchathon*
Phaopat Samakpong
Pongsakorn Jaimsawad*
Pongsatorn Tabtim
Sirawit Pamanee
Suwichai Suwan
Thanakrit Limjittakorn*

– Coach Sopon Pinitpatcharalert’s team is expected to be sneaky good, especially with a handful of players with international experience and a couple more playing in some competitive Thai youth clubs. One such player is Team Captain Suwichai “Chertam” Suwan, who plays for the youth team of the Mono Vampire club. Attapong Leelaphipatkul is also one to watch, since he was part of the Hi-Tech Bangkok City in the 2015-2016 ASEAN Basketball League. U16 standouts Jdar Sonsem (6’4), Natthaworn Banchathon, Pongsakorn Jaimsawad, and Thanakrit Limjittakorn should also be among this team’s leaders on both ends of the floor. Thailand is Batang Gilas’s first game in the tourney, and it should be a good match-up. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Thais give the Filipinos all they can handle. It is worth noting that Thailand stuck with Batang Gilas in the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship before fading in the second half and losing, 70-51, and the Thais also finished an impressive 7th place overall in that tourney with victories over Bahrain, Iraq, and Kuwait.
TEAM MALAYSIA
Jian Yu Lim*
Joon Kang Lee*
Kah An Soong*
Kai Lun Siew
Ming Fong Chin
Eddie Wong
Syahrul Ridzuan Rosli*
Wei Kiat Tan
Xian Fu Ooi
Yee Tong Heng*
Yuan Hua Liew*
Zhong Shin Thea*

– Team Malaysia has the distinction of being the only team with players who played in the 2014 FIBA Asia U18 Championship. Those players are Heng Yee Tong, who is sure to torch the nets with his sharp shooting, and Kah Ah Soong, one of the team’s top rebounders. They will be joined by five veterans from Malaysia’s 2015 U16 squad, which finished 2nd in the 2015 SEABA U16 Championship. Surprisingly, their top scorer in that tourney, Kalven Lim, isn’t around, but playmaker Lee Joon Kang should step up along with Yuan Hua Liew and Syahrul Ridzuan Rosli, who are also veterans from the 2013 FIBA Asia U16 Championship. In all, Malaysia may prove to be a dangerous contender in this tournament, and certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly.
TEAM INDONESIA
Abram Nathan
Bagas Darmawan Hartono*
Christian Pascal Martua
Gerdy Martiano Rigwanto
Habib Titoaji
James Huang Alvaro*
Juan Harsab Maulana*
Muhamad Arighi Hardan Noor*
Patrick Nikolas
Steven Ray*
Yosua Otto Sunarko
Yudha Saputera

– For the most part, the home team will be a bit of a mystery as they didn’t play in the 2013 FIBA Asia U16 Championship or the 2014 FIBA Asia U18 Championship. A handful of players here played major roles as Indonesia finished third in the 2015 SEABA U16 Championship and tenth in the 2015 FIBA Asia U16 Championship, but apart from them, nobody seems to stand out. Big man Bagas Darmawan Hartono should be among the team’s main players along with shooter Juan Harsab Maulana. Guards Muhamad Noor and Steven Ray are also expected to play a ton of minutes as Indonesia hopes to impress on their home floor. Another guy to watch is Abram Nathan, one of Indonesia’s young rising stars who was flown to the USA for the Honda Developmental Basketball League in 2014.
TEAM SINGAPORE
Mohamed Shukri Manaf
Muhammad Naqib Borhan
Justin Yeo
Shiek Ridwan Shiek Bachamian
V Lavin Raj
Vignesh Rengarajan
Wei Shyann Lim
Xuan Sim
Bryan Ang
Yong-An Thng
Zhen Sim
Zhi Cai Tng

TEAM LAOS
Abraham Phonephansa
Dennis Joshua
Douangdeuan Phoummalin
Douangdeuan Xanasack
Latthabanlang Phommala
Phommachan Phetthavong
Phongphoumy Thavatay
Rattana Thavatsay
Sidaphone Kham Ek
Sokpavath Outhith
Thatxanaxay Soutthichack
Vaiyalath Phenphet

– Not much is known about both Singapore and Laos in this tournament as they are sending players who, at least based on my sleuthing, haven’t had any significant international exposure. Based on that, it may be safe to say these two teams will find it very difficult to consistently be competitive against the other four. Still, it would be wise not to automatically overlook them. – By Enzo Flojo

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