If the first two games in the China series will serve as a gauge, then AJ Edu and Dwight Ramos had already made a strong case for their inclusion in the Gilas Pilipinas squad that will compete in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
A first-time participant in the national men’s basketball program, the 6-foot-10 Edu has become the most consistent performer among big men as he was able to hold his own against the Iranians and the bigger, tougher Senegalese.
Edu joined the Gilas camp more than a month ago. This, however, is his first tournament as he was nursing a swollen ankle when the Filipino cagers played a series of friendly matches in Estonia and Lithuania.
For a big part of his career, the former Toledo standout had been riddled with injuries.
As a young player, he suffered major injuries that deprived him of an opportunity to play in the 2019 FIBA U19 World Championship. In fact, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and his meniscus just a few minutes into their first match of the tournament.
Even his right femur also incurred a hairline crack.
But Edu is a tough-minded player. He spent the entire pandemic getting himself stronger and better.
In his first game with Gilas, he posted solid numbers of nine points, nine rebounds and swatted three shots as his intimidating presence underneath on top of his athleticism provided Gilas different looks.
With Edu, we see probably the second coming of a bigger Japeth Aguilar, a mainstay of the Gilas program.
But it wasn’t just Edu, who caught the fancy of Filipino basketball fans as even Ramos showed no signs of slowing down amid early reports that he hurt his knee during training in Lithuania.
Ramos simply shrugged it off and assured that he is ready to go.
He let his game do the talking in the first two games against Iran and Senegal.
With Ramos, Gilas have somebody who is versatile enough to shift on different positions — from both guard spots all the way to power forward.
Ramos became a staple as early as two years ago under head coach Tab Baldwin, but proved to all and sundry that he can co-exist with other stars both in the Philippine Basketball Association and those seeing action in Japan and Korea.
In the first two games, the 6-foot-4 Ramos had a steady showing, anchoring Gilas’ offensive thrust in the early goings of both matches with his shooting, penetration and stabilizing presence.
This early, both Edu and Ramos are making good impressions on their possible inclusion in the Gilas team for the FIBA World Cup.
And if they can continue to stay healthy, there are spots going to be reserved for them in the world’s biggest basketball spectacle set to unfold three weeks from now.