Despite not having PBA players for the Manama window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, Gilas program director Tab Baldwin had hundreds of players to choose from to compose the pool.
However, the on-going coronavirus pandemic limited who he could bring in to the team’s Calambubble 11 days before they left for Bahrain.
Some of the players the American-Kiwi tactician wanted to be part of the pool were Fil-Kiwi Kenneth Tuffin, Fil-Australian James Spencer, and Fil-Italian Dalph Panopio.
Tuffin, 23, of FEU is in New Zealand as he had just played for Taranaki in the NZ-NBL. He is a 6-foot-4 swingman.
On the other hand, Spencer, 20, of UP is in Australia. The 6-foot-3 3-and-D specialist was part of Gilas Youth’s team that played in the 2019 Under-19 World Cup.
Strict travel restrictions though hampered the two from traveling back home.
“We actually invited Ken Tuffin and James Spencer.
“Both were out of the country and there were just issues around coming back to the country and things they were doing in Australia and New Zealand so those are two guys and that could have given us more wings. We already had a surplus of wings so it didn’t hurt us not to have them,” Baldwin told Coaches Unfiltered.
Panopio’s case though was different.
The heady 6-foot-1 floor general, who is just 20 years old, is currently in the States as he is enrolled in junior college South Plains in Levelland, Texas.
He is in the process of trying to get his amateur status back as he recently committed to Cal State Bakerfield.
“I like Dalph a lot. He brings the teachings of the European game with him I think he’s a very good talent. Dalph has gone to the states and playing junior college there so again he’s another guy that is definitely on our radar but he’s another guy that has conflicting responsibilities,” shared Baldwin.
“He was invited for the window but just couldn’t make it because of his responsibilities to his college team and I suspect that we will continue to invite him and when those opportunities arise that he can come in, we will welcome him.”
Also considered by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas were La Salle’s Mark Nonoy and Letran’s Rhenz Abando.
Though small for the international game, Nonoy who stands at 5-foot-8 and Abando who is 6-foot-2 can defend players much bigger than them, according to Baldwin.
“We consider everybody and those are very talented young players but I believe that there’s immaturity in terms of the team game for both of them. I think they’re both outstanding individual talents at this point, both of them are exceptional athletes, both of them are a little bit small for the positions they play, but in today’s game that doesn’t matter as long as you can defend bigger people.
“So I think there are many factors that go into how we view players and how we view them in the national team environment but those are two guys that we definitely have our eyes on among others. Just keep doing what they’re doing and prove themselves at each elevated level where they asked to compete,” he said.
In the future, Baldwin hopes that these players join Gilas even just in training.
Though in an ideal setting the pool for the 2023 FIBA World Cup will be the best of the best the country has to offer, there is still merit for players who form good chemistry with the shoo-ins.
“I think everybody needs to understand there’s a warning that comes with all of these invitations that the players who are able to answer the call they get an advantage over the players that can’t. Because we are preparing for 2023 where we’re not gonna select a team that is the most talented group of players, we’re gonna select the best team, and part of becoming the best team is becoming part of the environment and learning the skills and learning the cohesion with the other players,” he bared.
“So it’s not a situation where at the last minute I’m gonna say this player is available and that player is available and let’s just take the best ones.”