AJ Edu has gone through so many knee injuries that a men’s national team debut has taken a long time in coming.
Now back at the pink of health, the 6-foot-10 big man is looking to make up for lost time with a spot on the final Gilas Pilipinas roster for the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup seemingly within reach.
“I’m just really excited,” Edu said. “It [will be] my first time, so there’s really, like, nothing to lose for me. I’m going to out there and enjoy it.
“It’s my dream to play at the highest level—against NBA players—so it’s just going to be a really exciting experience for me. I’m just going to learn as much as I can,” he went on.
Edu has emerged as a cinch for the final roster for a Gilas crew that gets its campaign going on Aug. 25. It will be a triumph on its own, considering the multiple ligament tears that have robbed him of his minutes and confidence in the past.
He was big in Gilas’ tune-up matches here in Manila and in a pocket tournament in Guangdong, China, for a brief while making the absence of Kai Sotto negligible.
“The injuries were definitely a tough period for me. But you know, if not for the support system around me, my family, my friends, the [National Federation], the coaches, they were all really supportive during that time.
“Also my faith—most importantly—I’m thankful to the Lord and I’m faithful in those situations and that everything works together for good,” Edu said of his resurgence.
“And yeah, just being able to play in China, represent again after such a long time, and then do so while making an impact is just a testament to the people and a testament to my faith in the Lord.”
Top tier foes
Should Edu make the final lineup, he will be going up against the Dominican Republic’s Karl-Anthony Towns, a formidable big man in the NBA.
The 23-year-old had a rather candid reply when asked about facing an opponent of such caliber.
“I’d say I’ll just do my best if I get to guard him. So yeah, looking forward,” he said with a chuckle.
Edu will have a chance to prime himself further through the tuneup matches against Ivory Coast, Mexico, and Montenegro. Gilas Pilipinas was set to battle the Elephants on Friday night behind closed doors at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
If he clears those games with flying colors, Edu should finally realize a senior’s team debut that has been delayed for years.
And that’s really his target. After all, a Gilas Pilipinas appearance in this World Cup would also mean his first-ever game in front of his mother’s place of birth.
“I’m just super excited. I don’t want it any other way,” he said with a smile. “This is probably the best home game I could possibly play for a first home game. I’m excited to play in front of the fans to feel that love, that support, that puso. I’m just excited.”
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