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Filipino cager battles Wembanyama

‘I was the one guarding him. Of course, I was happy to play against the younger brother of Victor. I enjoyed every moment playing against him.’

Photograph COURTESY OF JOSH PLES JOSH Ples (left) is glad to be given the chance to face Victor Wembanyama’s younger brother, Oscar, in a tournament in France.

While Victor Wembanyama is making a lot of heads turn for the San Antonio Spurs in the National Basketball Association, a young Filipino cager had the honor of guarding his younger brother — Oscar — in a tournament in France last week.

Josh Ples was tapped to serve as the Wembanyama stopper when his club, Spain-based Next Hoops Tournament, twice battled ASVEL Tony Parker Adequat Academy in the semifinals of the Number One Officiel League U18 tournament.

The 17-year-old Ples said he was glad to stand his ground against the rising stars of France, including the 6-foot-8 Oscar, who is strongly considered as an NBA prospect despite playing basketball for less than two years.

The 6-foot-6 Ples is taking a different route to the NBA.

After playing high school basketball for Nazareth School of National University and San Beda University Taytay, Ples packed his bags for Spain to train at the Pau Gasol Academy in Barcelona.

He returned to Spain last month to see action for Club Baloncesto Tres Cantos with the hopes of developing his guard skills and campaign professionally in Europe to emerge as the first homegrown Filipino to play in the NBA.

With the chance of facing an elite talent like Oscar in a semifinal game, Ples is gaining the experience that he needed for his NBA journey.

“I was the one guarding him. Of course, I was happy to play against the younger brother of Victor. I enjoyed every moment playing against him,” said Ples, who posted 13 points and three rebounds in their first match with ASVEL on 27 October and four points and three rebounds in their second encounter on 29 October. His numbers are not bad since he is still recovering from an ankle injury and played in France for the first time ever.

“Against Oscar, I just played my role depending on what our team needed. We played against guys who will eventually be called up to play in the Euroleague and the NBA.”

Like his older brother, the 16-year-old Oscar is also being groomed to play in the NBA.

In a report by Sports Illustrated, the Spurs have three first-round picks in 2026 and 2027 and they could exercise one of those choices on Oscar if and when he decides to join his brother in the United States.

Oscar, however, insists that he wants to make a name for himself.

“I don’t particularly feel in Victor’s shadow. My goal is not to do exactly like him but to write my own story, as beautifully as possible.”

Ples said he is already learning a lot of things despite being in Europe for just one month.

“The difference here in Madrid is that the passes are quick. Yes, we also do it back home in the Philippines but it’s more one-on-one situations there,” Ples said.

“Their defense is much more defined. They want you to be quick on the help defensively.”

Still, the experience of facing Wembanyama’s younger brother — a future NBA player — motivates him to work hard and carry the torch for the Filipinos in the international arena.

“The experience of facing Oscar was really a big boost for me. I am more excited to train and play knowing that he is working hard as well,” Ples said.

“I don’t know if we will play against them again in the future. I am not expecting anything right now. All I’m doing is to keep grinding and the rest will follow.”

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