Batang Gilas prospect AJ Edu joined the Ateneo seniors team’s practice on Wednesday afternoon and made a good account of himself in front of men’s national coach and Blue Eagles consultant Tab Baldwin.
“It’s an honor to meet him and I think he (Baldwin) will have a good influence on me, especially my game,” Edu told FOX Sports in between lulls during the Blackwater-Meralco game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 15-year old prospect is accompanied by his mother, Josefina Litang-Edu, a native of Surigao. Before their meeting with Batang Gilas team manager Andrew Teh and SBP officials, Edu reconnected with his grand parents, who flew all the way from Surigao.
The last time Edu was in the country was when he was barely 1 and a half year old. But now, with the gift of athleticism and height, the 6-foot-9 kid will have more time to bond with his mother’s relatives soon.
“Coach Tab was impressed. May shooting, marunong magdala ng bola,” said Teh describing the young prospect.
In fact, Teh rued that Edu wasn’t able to play for the Batang Gilas in the recent FIBA Asia U18 Championship where the junior national team ended up at 7th place.
“He could’ve made a difference there,” Teh rued. “Kaso by the time his mother communicated to us that he’s available since the school year is over, eh kakalipas lang ng isang araw ‘yung deadline. Sayang!”
But Teh said he’ll make sure Edu will be ready by 2018.
“Bukas, ila-lock ko na ang deal. Imagine, we’ll have him plus Ethan Kirkness in the team,” said Teh, referring to the other 6-foot-9 Batang Gilas prospect based in Australia.
Teh will fly to Queensland next week to visit Kirkness and see his progress under former NBL player turned coach Greg Fox. This early, Teh is excited with the bright future ahead for the Batang Gilas program.
For now, Teh is glad that Edu liked it here, a good indication that he won’t have a rough sailing signing him up for the program.
“It’s two years in the making. Hindi naman nawala ‘yung communication namin ng mother niya. Kumbaga, I waited patiently and this is now the right time for him to get on board (sa Gilas program),” said Teh.
“One thing very nice about him (Edu) is he seems to be a nice kid. He’s very much willing to play for the national team,” he added.
“He seems to be happy here. He seems to be enjoying it,” said Edu’s mother who revealed that he raised him the Filipino way.
The Fil-Nigerian prospect revealed that his favorite Filipino dish is adobo. His mother also shared that next year, his son will start bulking up in the gym and follow a diet to beef up.
“We didn’t rush him because we thought he’s too young for that. But now, that he’s getting ready for college, I think this year he’s ready,” Jocelyn said.
And the kid who wears US size 16 shoes believes he needs that to adjust with the Philippine brand of basketball.
“My height definitely gives me an advantage but the main thing is I have to adjust physically and also speed up my game,” said Edu.
Edu, who will turn 17 next year, says he’s a big Kevin Durant fan and he’s patterning his’game after him.
“I play the 3 and 4 spot. I can shoot the ball from the perimeter and also can play inside,” said Edu. “I played against 6’7″ kids there and the smallest was 5’11” in Wales and Cyprus.”
Edu’s mother said a scout from Real Madrid offered him to join their junior team in Spain but she wants his son to finish first his studies and fulfill their dreams of seeing him play for Gilas.
“We can’t put all our eggs in one basket. Education comes first,” said Jocelyn.
The mother and son will fly back to Wales, England on Monday, hopefully, with a forged agreement with SBP to commit for the Batang Gilas program.
Between now and 2018, Edu will continue to develop his game with the Bristol Flyers Cadet, a known farm team of the British national squad. But it looks like Edu found his heart where home is.
“I was told the next tournament I’ll be eligible to play is in 2018 (FIBA Asia U18). I’m definitely excited,” said Edu. “I’m definitely ready.” – By Alder Almo
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo