By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen

We’re headed down to Long Beach, California this weekend for the Adidas Nations Global.  Teams from Latin America, Africa, Philippines, Australia, Russia, and the USA will battle it out for five days of U18 ball.  It’s a unique event that pits teams from around the world against each other and usually produces high level prospects.  Dante Exum who flourished at this year’s Nike Hoop Summit and most recently was an All-Tournament Team performer at the FIBA U19 World Championships, made a big splash at last year’s Nations tournament.  In effort to give you an idea of what the player’s thinking is, here is Team Philippines guard Mario Bonleon Jr. on preparing for the tournament, how he hoops, and an honest assessment of his country in world play.

ELA: How’d did you get picked to be on the Adidas Philippines team?

Mario Bonleon Jr: The coach called me one month before the Adidas Nations to ask me to be on the squad.

ELA: How well do you know your teammates and how has the team been molding together?

MBJ: Because I’m part of the U18 national team, I know my teammates well. We were together since last year because of the FIBA Asia Tournament.

ELA: So what was last year’s FIBA Asia’s like?

MBJ: We only got sixth place last year. We went against Asian powerhouses like Japan, Iran, China and Korea.

ELA: How’d you guys play? Get better? How was chemistry?

MBJ: Right now I can’t say that we’re better. Because we only practiced less than a month before Adidas Nations and not everyday.

ELA: Where were you playing this season and what changed in your game between the FIBA Asia’s and now?

MBJ: Im still playing ball now in my university (University of Santo Tomas). FIBA Asia taught me how to be brave because we were going against bigger guys. Way bigger and faster.

(Mario averaged 14.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game at the FIBA Asia’s.)

ELA: Would advantage do you think you or your team has going into the Adidas Nations?

MBJ: I don’t think we have the advantage. Filipinos are too small for world ball.

ELA: What are the heights for positions on your team?

MBJ: The tallest is just 6’6 and the smallest is 5’6. Most of us are 6’0 to 6’3 only.

ELA: What role do you play on this team?

MBJ: I’m one of the scorers and leader of the team. I’m the oldest player in our team. Im looking forward for my play to improve here and bring it back home.

ELA: Pinoy Shoutout?

MBJ: Mabuhay pilipinas!

If you want to follow Mario he’s @IAmSuperMarioB on Twitter. Big thanks to him for doing the interview and the folks at Twitter as we did the entire interview through DM.  We hope to catch up with Mario when ELA lands on Saturday at the tournament.