Gilas Pilipinas Men program director and head coach Tab Baldwin has always said that this iteration of the seniors’ team is not just for the now, but for the future.
And that future is the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Yes, the 2021 Asia Cup Qualifiers is just the starting point of his four-year plan heading into the global meet.
“Not only is this the youngest Gilas group ever assembled, but it’s also probably the youngest that could be assembled that’ll still be called Gilas,” he said before.
“If we went any younger, we could be calling them Batang Gilas.”
Baldwin’s pool started off with 25 players. A month later, they narrowed down to 21 men.
However, five players suffered injuries inside the Inspire Sports Academy — including four players that played in the Manama window in Rey Suerte, Matt Nieto, Dave Ildefonso, and Kemark Cariño.
Now out of the 15-man pool he has, the most experienced include Isaac Go and Dwight Ramos — both of whom have three caps each.
The eldest, on the other hand, is Jordan Heading at 25 years old.
With the cards dealt to him for the Clark window, Baldwin stressed that this team will not have a go-to player. Instead, they will rely on system execution.
“Still a bit premature because we believe we’re still training these players to be complete players. That doesn’t happen overnight, and we have a good amount of training time, but you know it’s never enough,” Baldwin told The Game.
“So from the offensive side of the ball, it’s position-less basketball. It’s multiple faces on offense, and it’s multiple options on offense. We don’t expect one star player to carry the load and in fact, the system doesn’t cater to one star player.
“Again, it takes time to evolve this, but the one advantage that I have is young players are much easier to coach in terms of aggression and effort and energy. So from that standpoint, it’s a good match. And if we can build that culture to play that way, then that’s the age that would be normal for them,” he continued.
Baldwin knows that despite having a young team, the country is looking forward to seeing them defeat rivals South Korea and Indonesia.
The American-Kiwi head coach, who has always put emphasis on the intangibles like “heart” stats, is looking at more than just the Ws in Clark.
“I would like for our fans… I would like for the basketball public, and really everybody, to understand that there are many kinds of results these days that we are after.
“Obviously, everybody’s looking for the final score of the games we’ve played, and they somehow want to draw a conclusion from that… That that reflects what’s going on the day-to-day work,” he said.
Gilas only needs one win in the Qualifiers to advance to the Asia Cup proper on August in Jakarta.
“We always have to be guarded by the results on the scoreboard. But we have to understand that we are in a program and we are in a progression moving towards 2023 and beyond in fact. And so we are looking for all kinds of results; we are looking for the development of players; we are looking for a culture to be developed,” he added.
“Some of these things you can’t quantify; some of these things, you have to trust the powers that be, and that would be our coaching staff and our program directors,” Baldwin went on. “Not just me, but you know, also people like Coach Ryan Gregorio and Boss Al Panlilio. We’re all invested in all kinds of results, and we do understand that the fans want to enjoy winning on the court. We absolutely understand that. We do, too, and there’s nothing better than a victorious locker room.
“But it doesn’t always come and for this program, in particular, we are not putting all our emphasis on that at this point. But certainly by 2023, we want to see a team and field a team in the World Cup in the Philippines that is capable of winning games; capable of getting out of the first round; and is capable of walking out the court with the major powers like Serbia or like the United States and our players feeling like they belong there. They really feel like they’re competitive as a team. That is an important result.”