Fiba World Cup: AJ Edu relishes challenge of playing vs marquee bigs

Gilas Pilipinas center AJ Edu Fiba World Cup

Gilas Pilipinas center AJ Edu during a Fiba World Cup game between Gilas Pilipinas and Dominican Republic. –Marlo Cueto/

BOCAUE — AJ Edu, who has been big in Gilas Pilipinas’ preparatory games, came up big Friday night in the team’s loss to the Dominican Republic in the Fiba World Cup’s opening night at Philippine Arena.

The 6-foot-10 big man put up seven points, five rebounds and two blocks in his first-ever game for the men’s squad.

It was a triumph on its own, considering the many knee injuries that plagued Edu in his varsity career. But it was an even commendable showing placed against the backdrop of playing against NBA All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns.

“It was a really cool challenge for me, you know. I want to be in the NBA one day, so to measure myself against the top of the top was an awesome experience,” he said shortly after the contest at the Philippine Arena here.

Edu admitted later in the post-game presser that he found it surreal playing against someone he used to look up to.

“I mean it’s kind of a surreal feeling playing against someone you watch on (television), seeing at All-Star Games, seeing become the No. 1 pick,” he said.

“But those are just the challenges that I love. that’s why I play the game of basketball, to play in front of a crowd like that with a challenge like that,” he went on.

Edu will have more chances to prove his mettle when he goes up against another NBA-caliber big man this Sunday.

The Philippines will host Angola at Smart Araneta Coliseum, looking to bounce back from the stinging loss at the hands of the Caribbeans.

“That’s the whole point of it, you want to be competing with those guys, especially if that’s the level I’m aspiring for one day, I have to compete at a high level,” Edu said.

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