PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Gilas Pilipinas will be paying special attention to a 17-year-old forward when it battles Indonesia in the knockout stage of the men’s basketball event of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.
Gilas assistant coach Jong Uichico admitted that the 6-foot-6 Dame Diagne might be a problem should they lock horns with the reigning champions in the crossover semifinals.
The Filipinos are expected to take the No. 2 seed in Group A after suffering a heartbreaking 68-79 loss to Cambodia late Thursday.
On the other hand, the Indonesians are tipped to take the No. 1 seed in Group B, setting the stage for an early rematch between the finalists in the previous SEA Games in Hanoi last year.
Uichico said the Indonesian-Senegalese standout has been in the lineup since the previous SEA Games but is making his presence felt lately after scoring 13 points on perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field laced with some highlight reels in their 141-37 victory over Laos.
“He was already there, I think, but he did not play much,” Uichico said.
“He has improved and we will get to see him more in the next two games.”
Diagne is joining forces with the veteran Prosper, a long-time Philippine Basketball Association import.
Gilas Pilipinas, however, is more familiar with Prosper as most of its players had already faced him during his stints with Columbian Dyip, Terrafirma and San Miguel Beer in 2019.
He, however, has a score to settle against the Filipinos, who humiliated him when he was reinforcing Indonesia in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifying Tournament under a bubble setup in Angeles City.
Gilas was then being handled by Tab Baldwin and composed of young players led by Kai Sotto, SJ Belangel, Justin Baltazar and Jordan Heading.
Aside from Prosper and Diagne, another naturalized player who is tipped to be the center of the Filipinos’ defensive focus is Anthony Beane, a 5-foot-9 American-born Indonesian who played for the Indonesian Patriots in the Indonesian Basketball League.
He scored 12 points, four rebounds and three steals against Laos.