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Clarkson appearance excites Baldwin, but mindful Gilas should ‘not be carried away’

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Having Jordan Clarkson warm-up and do shootaround in Gilas Pilipinas uniform brings hope and excitement even to head coach Tab Baldwin, but the Gilas mentor is mindful the national team and fans in general should keep expectations realistic.

“It’s great to see him. I am like every Gilas fan when I see a player of his caliber walk inside the gym. It’s exciting,” Baldwin said after seeing Clarkson join Gilas parts of practice on Wednesday night.

“But the important thing is to not get carried away by whether Jordan is going to play or not. We don’t know.”

Baldwin added he is in awe of Clarkson’s desire to take a risk and suit up for the national team.

“He is here because he wants to be here. He wants to play for the Philippines and that is as exciting as an announcement could be,” he shared.

“The better announcement is if he can play but we still have to wait for that.”

Another positive aspect of Gilas’ road towards the FIBA Asia Championship in September is the identity it is slowly showing.

Baldwin says energy has been high in the team’s first practice back from a pocket tournament in Estonia, as they are beginning to develop cohesion.

“The guys are animated now because a lot of the ‘unsureness’ around the team is now starting to disappear. We now know who we are,” Baldwin said.

“The past few weeks we didn’t know who we are but now we know who we are and that gives them a lot of confidence in practice.”

The team leaves again on Friday for the Jones Cup in Taipei, and Baldwin is focusing on the team’s defense.

Baldwin admitted defense was “a big issue” during the Estonia camp, and for them to compete well against Asian powerhouses, they have to improve on that aspect most especially.

“Right now we have to work on our defense. Those teams in Estonia are good but against FIBA Asia top level teams, our defense should look nothing like it looks like now,” he said.

Instead of focusing solely on winning games, Baldwin added he is looking at the Jones Cup stint as an opportunity to get better as the team nears its ultimate goal of booking a ticket to the 2016 Olympics.

“I just want us to play well and to continue to grow as a team. The only thing I am concerned about is winning the gold medal in FIBA Asia and everything that leads up to that is about getting better.”

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