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Panopio, Philippines want to make fans proud at first U19 World Cup in 40 years
ROME (Italy) - Dalph Panopio cannot wait to play at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 and help Philippines show their faithful fans that the country can compete with best teams in the world.
The point guard played a major role in Philippines finishing fourth at the FIBA U18 Asian Championship 2018 and qualifying for their first U19 World Cup appearance since the first edition of the competition in 1979.
"This is a great opportunity for us to show the rest of the world that we can compete against stronger and well-known teams," said Panopio, who averaged 7.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and team-highs of 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals last summer at the U18 Asian tournament.
The event in Thailand was the first time Panopio represented Philippines, the home country of both of his parents, who gave birth to the 6ft 1in (1.85m) playmaker in Rome.
"THE EXPECTATION IS THAT WE MAKE OUR COUNTRY PROUD AND WE ARE DETERMINED TO WIN AND NOT JUST PASS THROUGH THE QUALIFICATIONS."
Panopio, who plays for the well-known Italian talent producing club Stellazzurra Rome, says Philippines learned a lot last summer, when they beat China in the group stage and played against a strong Australia team in the Semi-Finals.
"We definitely learned so many things, especially how to create a special bond between us, and I believe that this makes our team even stronger," Panopio said.
He is very much looking forward to representing Philippines again this summer.
"I'm very excited to represent and play for my country once again. It would be another amazing experience and I hope this time I can do even better," he said.
The task will not be easy for Philippines, who finished 10th in their only previous showing in 1979. Panopio and co have been drawn into Group C with Argentina, who finished third at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship 2018, hosts Greece and Russia, the fourth-placed team from the FIBA U18 European Championship 2018.
"I know the other teams and I'm aware that they are all very capable and perfect rivals," he said.
Philippines will not be without weapons of their own. In addition to the Italy-based point guard Panopio, the team also features a strong big man combo of AJ Edu and Kai Sotto, the latter who also played at the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018.
"I am so proud and happy that I have two teammates that are so big and definitely, they will lead our team to victories," Panopio said.
The main goal for Philippines in the tournament in Heraklion is to give the fans back home a good show.
"The expectation is that we make our country proud and we are determined to win and not just pass through the qualifications," he said.
Panopio knows that there will be plenty of backing from the fans back home.
"What we need from our country is support, something that Filipinos don't lack in showing," he said.