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Gilas Youth joins Spain, Puerto Rico, Lithuania in FIBA U17 World Cup group

MANILA, Philippines – The battlefield — and the stacked opposition on the way — is set for the Gilas Pilipinas youth in its anticipated return to the FIBA U17 World Cup in Turkey on June 29 to July 7. 

Gilas Youth has been bracketed in the powerhouse Group A with Spain, Puerto Rico and Lithuania as per the official draw of the 16-team world joust this week in Istanbul.

Ranked World No. 25, Gilas Youth faces a tall task against the three Top-15 squads in World No. 2 Spain, No. 7 Lithuania and No. 15 Puerto Rico.

All three opponents also finished at the podium in the last three editions with Spain placing as a runner-up to world No. 1 USA in 2022 held at its home court in Malaga.

Lithuania and Puerto Rico were bronze medalists in the 2016 and 2018 editions, respectively.

But the Filipino boys are undeterred to shock the world with head coach Josh Reyes and ace player Kieffer Alas leading the way.

Bannered by Alas, who was named to the All-Star Five behind averages of 15.4 points and 8.6 rebounds, Gilas Youth finished fourth in the FIBA Asia U16 Asian Championship last year in Doha, Qatar.

Gilas Youth’s feat, highlighted by a 64-59 quarterfinal win against Japan to make the Final Four plus a sure World Cup ticket, marked the country’s world stage comeback since the golden era of Kai Sotto, AJ Edu and Carl Tamayo in 2018.

Meanwhile, the mighty United States squad that won all six editions of the youth world tiff so far leads Group B with China, France and Guinea.

Host Turkey spearheads Group C with Argentina, New Zealand and Italy while Group D has Australia, Canada, Egypt and Germany.

No team will be eliminated in the pool phase as all 16 countries will barge in the knockout stage featuring a crossover format between top-ranked and bottom-placed teams from Groups A and B against C and D.