Five reasons to be excited for #23for23

Earlier today, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes released a list of 23 young prospects that the national team program is eyeing to develop for the FIBA World Cup in 2023. It’s a very raw list composed of still semi-polished talents. Yet, it’s a list that toys with your imagination.

I wondered: what could Philippine basketball look like when these now-kids-then-men take over?

Here are some thoughts that excite me.

(READ: Five players that should also be considered for the 2023 Gilas pool)


1. Kobe Paras and Thirdy Ravena together at the peak of their athletic abilities

A fitness coach once told me that men are naturally strongest when they are in the range of 24 to 28 years old. Of course, that’s not always true – especially for athletes. Sportsmen begin training at an early age. Thus, their bodies develop much faster than an average joe.

The theory can still apply, though. So let’s consider Kobe and Thirdy, two of the most gifted young athletes the country boasts of today. Right now, Kobe is 20. Thirdy is 21. By 2023, they would be 25 and 26, right in the middle of the golden athletic window. Imagine what level of physical prowess they would have by then. Because for sure, their bodies would develop some more. For sure, they’re going to be stronger than they are today.

By the end of the FIBA World Cup in 2023, expect at least a couple of the tournament’s top plays to belong to Kobe and Thirdy.

SEABA 2017 Gilas-Pilipinas vs Indonesia pic 23 by Roy Afable

2. Two seven footers on the Philippine National Team

When I was younger, the first thing I tried to find out about a player – especially a Filipino hooper – was his height. Forget about his points. Forget about his MVPs or his championships. I wanted to know how tall a dude was. I marvelled at how the NBA could have a 7-foot–7 Gheorge Muresan and a 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley, and the tallest guys in the PBA, Asi Taulava and Mick Pennisi at that time, were just 6-foot-9.

Well, we did have EJ Feihl who was reportedly seven feet tall. While he was part of the 1998 Asian Games contingent, he didn’t really have an impact proportional to his size. Seeing the list of #23for23, you have two promising towers – a 16-year-old Kai Sotto who already stands 7-foot-2, and AJ Edu, who at 18 years old stands 6’11”. In five years time, he’ll surely grow at least an inch. Like Coach Chot said, it’s going to be the tallest national team our country has ever formed.

I know it’s shallow, but I’ve always dreamt of a seven footer on our national team. Come 2023, we just might have two of them.


3. Two UP Fighting Maroons

Fighting Maroons on the national team are sightings almost as rare as seven footers. Back in the 80s, Benjie Paras, Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano raised the flag for the Isko and the Iska. However, in the past two decades, there hasn’t been a lot of UP products breaking into the national team pool and fighting for the flag.

It’s understandable. If you want the best players, you look into successful teams. The Fighting Maroons haven’t really qualified for that category.

But that’s also why the inclusion of Paul Desiderio and Juan Gomez de Liaño in this #23for23 pool should excite UP fans. Their selections do not only speak of their individual talent. It validates the fact that the UP Fighting Maroons, as a team, are indeed on the rise.


4. Robert Bolick and CJay Perez teaming up in the backcourt

It has only been a few months since Bolick and Perez starred in an epic NCAA 93 Finals that San Beda won. They battled a total of four games that seasons, with their teams taking two wins each. It just so happened that Bolick’s Red Lions won their two games in the Finals, thus earning the title.

Every San Beda-LPU game in season 93 was must-watch basketball because of several factors. It’s not very often that San Beda has a legitimate threat to their throne. There was also a lot of promising young talent on both sides. Finally, Robert Bolick versus CJay Perez was a match you just should not miss. In 2023, we could see these two join forces if they get chosen to represent the country. It was thrilling to see them go at each other, it should be fun to see them work together.


5. A guy named Remy Martin

The guy’s name is actually Remy Martin. Yup, same as the cognac your conyo tito loves to drink. Over in the Perlas Pilipinas camp, they have a player named Jack Danielle Animam. It’s pretty amusing.

You know what else is amusing? Remy’s game. Actually, no. It’s not amusing. It’s amazing. They guy is a freshman playing for the Arizona State Sun Devils. He was a four-star recruit out of Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, California. The guy can hoop. And more importantly, he wants to hoop for the Philippines.

Remy has expressed his willingness to play for his country. He identifies well with our culture. Just watch his game and you’ll see the style of play we celebrate as Pinoys. By the way, he dropped 21 points and got six steals against Kansas. Oh, and his favorite food is Adobo.

Photo of Remy Martin from the State Press