20 for the 2020s: These youngsters are the next stars of Philippine sports

As the 2010s give way to the 2020s, the ESPN5.com staff look at the next generation of Filipino athletes who we think will make waves in the next decade. Specifically, we identified 20 youngsters, none over the age of 23 by Dec. 31, 2019, whom we think are the best bets to carry the torch for the Philippines over the next 10 years.

Justin Baas, 19 (football)

The young defender had a colorful stint during the 2019 SEA Games after drawing the ire of Malaysian supporters. The fiery center half was seen aggressively slapping their Malaysian counterparts during the post-game niceties, which showed that Justin Baas may need to mature a bit more.

Once the 19 year old gets more experience, he will be a force to be reckoned with. Blessed with an imposing frame and a uncompromising approach to the game, Baas could be a key part of the Azkals back line in the future. - Paolo Del Rosario

Chezka Centeno, 20 (billiards)

In their semifinal match of the women's 10-Ball Doubles competition of the recently concluded 2019 Southeast Asian Games, Rubilen Amit had a couple of shaky moments where she was not able to get the cue ball in perfect position. However, as she was teamed with Chezka Centeno, these little mistakes did not matter as the youngster showed tremendous pocketing skills to beat a team from Indonesia. They marched to the gold medal match where they defeated another Indonesia team, 7-0, to capture the gold. Centeno now has a collection of four golds in the SEA Games as she also won the women's 10-Ball singles while pocketing the silver in the 9-Ball event after losing to Amit in the finals. However, the 2019 SEA Games 10-ball final seemed to be a passing of the torch moment from Amit to Centeno who will carry the fight for Philippine women's pool in the years to come. - Carlo Pamintuan

Margielyn Didal, 20 (skateboarding)

Margielyn Didal has been the perfect ambassador for skateboarding in the last two years since winning gold medals in the 2018 Asian Games and 2019 SEA Games. The flamboyant kid from Cebu will still be the face of the sport at the turn of the decade as she continuously calls the need for more skate parks in the country. - Yoyo Sarmenta

Alex Eala, 14 (tennis)

If 2019 is any indication, then Alex Eala will have a big decade ahead of her. She will end the 2010s ranked 11th in the world among junior players after winning an ITF Grade A tournament in Cape Town in October and finishing runner-up in another Grade A tournament a week later in Osaka before finishing the year with a semifinal finish in the US. And she's done it against competition two or three years older. She's been training since the age of eight at the renowned Rafael Nadal Academy (RNA), and is trekking on the right path towards becoming the new tennis standard-bearer of the Philippines. - Noel Zarate

Reymart Gaballo, 23 (boxing)

At 23 years of age and holding a 23-0 win-loss record, Reymart Gaballo is one of the brightest prospects in Philippine boxing because he is right at the cusp of a world title shot. After starting his career in 2014, Gaballo steamrolled through opposition as only two of this first 16 opponents heard the final bell. His biggest win came in 2018 when he picked up the interim WBA bantamweight title. Although he was not able to parlay this into getting a world title shot, Gaballo stayed busy with technical knockout wins over Yuya Nakamura, Yeison Vargas, and Chaiwat Buatkrathok in 2019. Gaballo has a great team behind him in Sanman Promotions and, hopefully, they will be able to finally lock in the battle for a legitimate world title that he has long deserved. Naoya Inoue holds the WBA and IBF versions of the bantamweight crown and he was recently challenged by IBF title-holder John Riel Casimero. The other champion in the division is Nordine Oubaali of France but the problem is that Gaballo is not even ranked in the top 15. His best hope might be to wait his turn against Inoue as the WBA has Gaballo ranked fourth. - Carlo Pamintuan

Yrik Gallantes, 18 (football)

The Scotland-based Yrik Gallantes isn't shy to say he learned a lot playing alongside Stephan Schrock during the SEA Games. Under Schrock, Gallantes endeavored to learn to be more physical despite being quite small in build.

Should some of Schrock's physicality rub off on Gallantes, the Philippines will have a dynamic playmaker from the wing in their arsenal. Gallantes showed glimpses of creative playmaking during the SEA Games, and has grabbed enough attention to make Philippine football fans hopeful for the future. Paolo Del Rosario

Eya Laure, 20 (volleyball)

Being the youngest named to the Philippine national women's volleyball team that competed in the recently concluded SEA Games, the talents of the 5'8" University of Santo Tomas (UST) sophomore have now been showcased in a huge way. Laure is emerging as the new face of transition for the national program and her skills, leadership abilities and raw courage could have her paving the way for a new generation of spikers that could eventually resuscitate a program that was once supreme in the region. She is no longer under the shadow of her decorated father (Eddie) and her older sister (EJ). She is now primed to be among the those that will shape the future of volleyball in the country. - Noel Zarate

AJ Lim, 20 (tennis)

Coming off a bronze medal finish at the 30th Southeast Asian Games, Alberto "AJ" Lim has many years to further make a name for himself inside the tennis courts.

Lim started make some noise in the latter half of the 2010s. He was the youngest member of the Philippine Davis Cup delegation in 2016. Representing the University of the East for two years, Lim rose above his competition and took home Most Valuable Player honors twice while leading UE to its first-ever UAAP tennis championship before committing himself to the professional circuit in 2018. - Philip Matel

Pauline Lopez, 23 (taekwondo)

Pauline Lopez has been a fixture of the Philippine taekwondo team in the 2010s. Her impressive résumé includes a breakthrough Asian Taekwondo championship in 2016, two Southeast Asian Games golds, a Pan Am Open gold, a Korea Open gold, and an Asian Games bronze. She will continue to chase her Olympic dream in the coming months, hoping to jumpstart the new decade with a qualification ticket for Tokyo 2020. - Charmie Lising

Carl Jammes Martin, 20 (boxing)

In terms of hype surrounding a young Philippine boxing prospect, there is no one that could be on the same level as Carl Jammes Martin. At only 20 years of age, Martin has already built a fearsome record of 15 wins with 14 knockouts without a single defeat or draw in about four years of boxing. Boxing governing bodies could not wait to slap their belts around Martin's waist as he has already held regional titles from the WBA (Asia), WBO (Oriental Youth), and WBC (ABC Continental) and he currently holds the Philippine Boxing Federation bantamweight title. Starting from late 2017, Martin has gone through international opposition, defeating fighters from Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia, and China but his last two victims were a couple of Filipino journeymen. Martin closed out his decade with four fights in 2019 capping it with a third-round thrashing of Philip Luis Cuerdo. Although still far from a world title shot as he is not yet ranked in the top 15 of all four governing bodies, Martin's fights will continue to be must-see TV as the son of Lagawe, Ifugao should start testing himself against tougher opponents in the near future. - Carlo Pamintuan

Faith Nisperos, 19 (volleyball)

Faith Nisperos will make her UAAP debut for Ateneo de Manila University in a couple of months. Nisperos, a two-time MVP and four-time champion in the juniors division with National University, is definitely one of the most prized recruits in the upcoming volleyball season. She gave a preview of what she could bring for the Lady Eagles when she starred in their 2019 PVL Collegiate Conference campaign, highlighted by a 35-point explosion in the bronze medal series that they eventually won. Recently named to the U23 Philippine team pool, Nisperos is expected to burst onto the international scene in the near future. - Charmie Lising

Bianca Pagdanganan, 22 (golf)

While many young athletes struggle with a roller coaster to begin a career in sports, this Assumption Antipolo alum rode on a rocket ship. Pagdanganan was among those that put the country on the map not only by claiming a gold and bronze medals in the 2018 Asian Games and two golds 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, but also for being the ace player of the two US NCAA Division I programs she played for in Gonzaga University and now the University of Arizona where she was instrumental in the Wildcats' 2018 title conquest. She is now set to make waves as one of the newest campaigners in the LPGA Tour. - Noel Zarate

Kobe Paras, 22 (basketball)

Kobe Paras is among the next faces of Philippine basketball. Fans hardly saw Paras play prior to his first year with the UP Fighting Maroons but the second generations star exceeded expectations with his talent, skill, and leadership in just one season. He will banner the next wave of amateurs and PBA hopefuls. - Yoyo Sarmenta

Thirdy Ravena, 23 (basketball)

After a storied collegiate career including three straight UAAP championships, Thirdy Ravena solidified himself as one of the best prospects of the country. The versatile forward blossomed into a two-way star under the tutelage of Tab Baldwin. It'll be interesting to see where the next step of his professional career will be after skipping the 2019 PBA draft. He certainly has the build, talent, and work ethic to make it into pros locally or overseas. - Yoyo Sarmenta

Joshua Retamar, 19 (volleyball)

Joshua Retamar, an incoming sophomore setter for National University, played a vital role in the Philippine team's historic silver-medal finish in the 30th Southeast Asian Games. He was a revelation in his debut as a national team playmaker, delivering the ball to the attackers with ease and earning his own crucial points through blocks and serves. Retamar, a former Palarong Pambansa MVP, is all set to continue his remarkable performances both in the UAAP and the international stage. - Charmie Lising

Yuka Saso, 18 (golf)

Eighteen-year old Yuka Saso proved that she has the clutch gene after sealing the winning eagle for a gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games. Saso didn't compete for the country at the 2019 SEA Games, as she played to qualify for the LPGA of Japan after missing the cut in the lady's tour in the US.

Saso will enter the new decade as a professional, and will look to use her success as an amateur as a spring board to greater things. - Paolo Del Rosario

Kai Sotto, 17 (basketball)

Kai Sotto is the Philippines' next big hope to be the first-ever Filipino-born player in the NBA. His towering 7-foot-2 frame is certainly his calling card to all potential scouts, but his ever-growing skill set should not be overlooked. Since leaving for the United States to train, Sotto has continued to make headlines after joining The Skills Factory and visits to Kentucky and Georgia Tech. At only 17, Sotto is at the forefront of the country's international basketball aspirations. - Yoyo Sarmenta

Merwin Tan, 21 (bowling)

After finishing a decent 11th in the recently concluded Bowling World Cup in Indonesia, the Markina native is now on his way to becoming the best youth kegler. Tan has attained numerous accolades as a youth bowler, including a win in the 2019 Asian championship-ending a seven year title drought for the Philippines-and his victory in this year's National Championship will pave the way for his participation in top-tier tournaments across the globe. The 2020s will mark his transition to the seniors' arena. - Noel Zarate

Agatha Wong, 21 (wushu)

With the retirement of world champion Lindswell Kwok of Indonesia who often ruled the SEA Games wushu taijijian and taijiquan events, Agatha Wong is one of the favorites to be the next queen of wushu in the region. From a gold and a silver in the 2017 SEA Games to twin gold medals in 2019, Wong is showing no signs of slowing down as she also picked up an Asian Games bronze medal in between. Bucking injuries prior to her performance in front of an adoring crowd in Manila, Wong showed grit and determination aside from her usual combination of power and poise to be one of the Philippines' favorite athletes in the biennial meet. Events to look forward to for Wong are the 2021 SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam and the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. - Carlo Pamintuan

Carlos Yulo, 19 (gymnastics)

Caloy Yulo ended the decade with a splash by making history as the first Filipino world champion in gymnastics. He reigned supreme in the floor exercise, his signature event, and earned a 2020 Tokyo Olympics berth in the process. He followed it up with an impressive seven-medal haul in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, winning two gold and five silver. He will welcome the new decade with an even bigger wave as he competes as an Olympian. At 19, Yulo has huge potential and is set to conquer more gymnastics events in the world stage. - Charmie Lising