After the final window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and the Belgrade Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Gilas Pilipinas will have no rest as it prepares for another series of tournaments to close out the year.
The Asia Cup proper will happen in Indonesia this August, the first window of the World Cup Qualifiers takes place in the last week of November, while the 31st Southeast Asian Games closes out the year in Hanoi.
With that, Gilas needs more players in its pool. That is why the program director is already looking at players who will be added to the expanded pool.
Two names the decorated tactician mentioned were uber-athletic swingman Rhenz Abando of Letran and speedy floor general Mark Nonoy of La Salle.
“We are looking at players like Mark Nonoy and Rhenz Abando as well. Expanding and bringing in more talent,” he told Zoom In.
“As long as players are available, when we have to expand the pool, that’s what we are going to do.”
During his rookie year in UAAP Season 82, Nonoy dazzled, averaging 11.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assists for University of Santo Tomas.
However, at just 5-foot-10, Baldwin looks to turn the 20-year-old Nonoy into an elite defender if he gets a chance to do so. It’s the same challenges that will be faced by current pool members SJ Belangel and RJ Abarrientos.
“Mark at the point is small but just watching him play, talking to the coaches about him, and thinking about it more, he is a kid that seems to overcome the limitations of his size.
“Defensively, there will be some challenges for him. And we are seeing the same thing with RJ and SJ — having to overcome size on the defensive end. In Southeast Asia, it won’t be a problem. In Asia, it’s probably a winnable case. But at the international level, you have to be at an elite level if you’re small. We want to help them achieve that,” he said.
On the other hand, the 23-year-old Abando has proven that he can play in big moments. During his sole season in UST, he posted norms of 11.71 points, 5.29 rebounds, and a team-high 1.29 blocks.
“For Rhenz Abando, he is a kid that can really shoot the ball — a tremendous athlete. And he shows that he can play in big moments.”
Another player who Baldwin looks to bring back to the pool is Juan Gomez de Liano.
Gomez De Liano played in all three games of the Qualifiers so far, averaging 12.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game.
However, Baldwin shared that Gomez de Liano missing the March bubble of Gilas harmed his chances as Gilas already had point guards like Belangel, Abarrientos, Matt Nieto, Jordan Heading, and, even, Dwight Ramos.
“I spoke to Juan and the important thing is the door to Gilas is still open in the ensuing bubbles after the June competitions. I already told him that he will be invited back,” he said.
“We are looking to expanding the pool.”
Baldwin is hoping that more prospects will be allowed by their schools to join Gilas later this year.
This as the 2023 FIBA World Cup is just a couple of years away.
“We are always on the lookout for players who are evolving and that is going to be the nature of the program.”