NOKIA RP head coach Eric Altamirano on Sunday said the recruitment for the RP U-18 team is "gaining interest" as the open tryouts starts Monday at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

Altamirano also clarified he will welcome aspirants born after 1992 as long they will make the grade for the team that will compete in the Fiba Asia U-18 Championship for Men in September.

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He said the renewed interest is primarily due to the commitment of the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP) headed by businessman Manny Pangilinan and executive director Noli Eala in the three-year youth basketball program backed by Nokia Philippines and TAO Corporation headed by president Jun Sy.

“We were receiving a lot of queries about the upcoming tryouts. And much of the credit goes to the SBP for its commitment to make the youth program stronger and make it the backbone of the Philippine basketball program,” he said.

Altamirano admitted that he needs all the help he can get in forming the team as he also called on Filipinos to encourage young players, particularly in their neighborhoods to attend the tryouts.

“These players may not know it, but they are the ones needed in the team. I am emphasizing that they are now playing for a cause that is bigger than themselves,” he said.

Expected to be considered for the Nokia RP U-18 team are some members of the Nokia RP U-16 team headed by team captain Kiefer Ravena, son of former national and PBA player Bong Ravena.

Other members in that team were Von Pessumal, Roldan Sara, Gelo Alolino, Jeron Teng, Jeoffrey Javillonar, Kevin Ferrer, Mike Pate, Mike Tolomia, Nestor Bantayan, Paolo Romero and Cedric Labing-Isa.

The Nokia RP U-16 team placed fourth in the inaugural Fiba Asia U-16 Men’s Championship held last November 27 in Bandaraya Stadium, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. It was the highest finish by any Philippine youth team in recent years.

On that game, Iran ended the Filipinos’ young dreams with an 83-73 win over the Nationals in overtime to finish second runner-up.

Powerhouse China destroyed Korea, 104-69, to win the title of this inaugural tourney which sends both teams to the FIBA World U-17 Men’s Championship in Hamburg, Germany next year. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)