Nationals embracing next-man-up mentality

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Nationals embracing next-man-up mentality
Kai Sotto, Japeth Aguilar and Carl Tamayo
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Gilas Pilipinas is counting on its adaptability and next-man-up mentality as it tackles the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers minus injured giants June Mar Fajardo and AJ Edu.

Fajardo is out for two weeks due to a calf injury he sustained in last week’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals while Edu will only be back in action in April after tearing a meniscus last November.

This leaves Kai Sotto and stand-in Japeth Aguilar with the main task of patrolling the lanes against Hong Kong tomorrow on the road and Chinese Taipei on Sunday at home with forward Carl Tamayo possibly being converted to center.

“We lost a lot of size losing June Mar and AJ so Japeth is God-sent,” coach Tim Cone said of Aguilar, who was not a part of the Gilas 12 but was tapped to replace Edu and join the 11-man crew for the opening windows.

“Japeth being able to back up Kai is going to be big for us. Carl Tamayo is our third-string center so he may have to be played out of position. These things happen to any basketball team all the time. You just have to roll with the punches and continue to deal with this.”

Sotto expressed readiness to take a bigger responsibility with the help of Aguilar, who is suiting up amid his wife’s delivery of their newborn daughter over the weekend, and the rest.

“Big props to Kuya Japeth for stepping in. Next-man-up (mentality) sa lahat ng players. We’re missing two key players so the rest will have to step up and everybody’s ready to do that naman sa parating na window. I’m confident sa team namin ngayon,” he said.

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