In Gilas Pilipinas’ game against the Dominican Republic in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup opener on Friday at the Philippine Arena, AJ Edu was more than willing to offer his body to stop Karl-Anthony Towns from wreaking havoc.
The Filipinos may have lost to the Dominicans, 87-81, but it was the opportunity for Edu to shine against the world’s finest, including Towns, who was forced to carry the offense for the visitors in a game that was only decided in the closing minutes.
“It’s a surreal feeling, you know, playing against someone you watch a lot on TV, seeing at All-Star games, seeing you know be the No. 1 pick. But, you know those are the sort of challenges that I love,” said Edu.
Despite the multitude of defensive methods employed by Gilas, Towns still managed to produce 26 points.
The record-breaking crowd of 38,115 in attendance applauded Edu’s tenacity and cheered him on every time he made a stop against Towns.
“That’s why I played the game of basketball to play in front of a crowd like that with a challenge like that, I just really love the opportunity, I loved every minute playing against him and ultimately that’s the level I wanna be for one day,” he added.
The 23-year-old Fil-Cypriot, who battled back from two ACL injuries early in his career, even garnered Towns’ respect, which left Edu amused.
“That’s just amazing right there, that’s awesome and I mean that’s the whole point of competing with this guys, especially if that’s the level I aspiring to be someday.”
Edu had 7 points and 5 rebounds and shared the paint with June Mar Fajardo against the Dominicans.
He will be tested once more when Gilas takes on Angola on Sunday, August 27, at the Araneta Coliseum against wide-bodied NBA big man Bruno Fernando.