In an ideal world, the country’s top basketball players should be playing for Gilas Pilipinas.
But what is more ideal for the country that is still just two years off a last place finish in the FIBA World Cup? An all-star team but with little training or a young team that has been practicing for months.
For Gilas program director Tab Baldwin, he would rather have the latter since it’s an opportunity to build something special.
“Not having the PBA players is a setback for the Gilas program because ultimately, we always hope we’re going to get an injection of talent, and very often we do. But we don’t always need them for the extensive training in the bubble,” said Baldwin on Power & Play with Noli Eala.
“We look at it as an opportunity to build young players in the future.”
Don’t get the American-Kiwi head coach wrong. After being in the country for almost a decade, he knows that the PBA has to run its business as well.
The SBP, on the other hand, has a job to do as well which is to compete in international competitions.
That is why the SBP and the PBA have agreed to send collegiate players and fresh grads to both the FIBA Asia Cup and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
“Everybody is trying to balance a bunch of variables that we can’t get a grasp on. We are going to have a bubble competition and we had PBA guys but the tournament got cancelled. The PBA got their business too. So they are busy running their schedule and even they have a hard time,” expressed Baldwin.
“Always in the background is the decision that was made three years ago to develop a cadet national team that will eventually be the senior national team.”
Currently in the bubble are 24 players. Isaac Go; Matt and Mike Nieto; and Rey Suerte arrived last Friday and were joined by new pool addition Jolo Mendoza. Also there are Dave Ildefonso, Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, Chris Koon, Angelo Kouame, Jordan Heading, William Navarro, Tzaddy Rangel, Jaydee Tungcab, Carl Tamayo, RJ Abarrientos, Gian Mamuyac, Jason Credo, Joshua Lazaro, Troy Mallillin, Geo Chiu, SJ Belangel, Kyle Ong, and Lebron Lopez.
The PBA still has done its share by means of the last two Gilas drafts that netted the national team nine full-time players.
But Baldwin shared that some players that he had wanted from the last two drafts had begged off from entering the special round. Some of them are Calvin Oftana and Santi Santillan.
“The last two drafts haven’t been talent-laden as what we had hoped for. You can’t control that either on who decides to come out and decides to become available for the Gilas pool. But, we’ve been sort of given by the pandemic access to all the top collegiate players because they can’t train,” he shared.
“So it’s really a rainbow of issues.”
The veteran internationalist would rather go to war with this crew than anyone else.
As everyone has seen over the past decade, preparation is key for Baldwin.
“We don’t need the PBA players to come in just three to four days or a week before a competition. We need something more significant than that,” said Baldwin, knowing as the 2019 FIBA World Cup debacle is still fresh from everyone’s minds.”We just have to play it every time by ear and appreciate what the PBA also does as well.
“As long as we have mutual appreciation to one another’s businesses, I think we’re gonna be fine.”