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AJ Edu treasures playing with ‘buddy’ Kai Sotto

Filipino-Cypriot big man AJ Edu may be disappointed that host Gilas Pilipinas has not won in four games in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.


But the experience and the chance to play alongside good buddy Kai Sotto was one he wouldn't trade for anything.

At least for once, the 6-foot-11 Edu relished the experience of igniting the alleyoop play that led to the 7-foot-3 Sotto's two-handed slam that pushed Gilas Pilipinas to within 56-60 against South Sudan, with still a little over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter on Thursday.

That was just one of the few highlights of the team's brave fightback, before South Sudan regained control en route to scoring a 87-68 win at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The classification phase loss, coupled by Japan's come-from-behind win over Venezuela in Okinawa, meant that the Philippines is no longer in contention for the lone Asian spot for the 2024 Olympics in the FIBA World Cup.

“Obviously a tough loss. But I'm really proud of the guys, the fight we showed to bring that game back down to four points just shows the heart we have,” said Edu, who formed a “Twin Tower” combination with Sotto in the 2018 FIBA Asia Under-18 championship in Bangkok, Thailand.

Edu continued to show improvement on his game in his first World Cup stint with the Philippine team as he finished with a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds.

But the 23-year-old former University of Toledo product said he couldn't have done that apart from the help of his teammates like the chemistry he has developed with Sotto and the constant mentoring from PBA stars June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar.

“Yeah I think that just shows how close we are off the court. We're really good friends off the court and that translates on the court,” Edu said, referring to Sotto.

“That chemistry —we've been playing together since a young age—and that has always been there. It's really cool we're able to bring it to the highest level. Also I learned from June Mar and Japeth, so this experience is valuable in terms of getting that.”

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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