Before moving on to coaching, Mark Dickel was a prolific basketball player for New Zealand.
During a stellar 14-year career, he had 100 caps for the Tall Blacks. And all the while, he played all over the world — from Germany and Turkey to Russia and Japan.
For the 6-foot-2 point guard, that international exposure made him a better floor general for his nation.
With that experience, the former interim head coach of Gilas Pilipinas believes that the Philippines needs the same formula to make a dent in the international scene.
He cited Kai Sotto who is with G League Ignite; Thirdy Ravena, who is with San-En; and AJ Edu who is studying in University of Toledo as examples of players taking it overseas.
“Obviously who you get at the naturalized part is very, very important. How that guy fits in on what you are doing rather than being the main guy… I just feel he’s gotta be one of the guys. And the other players on the team, they gotta have a position internationally. You can’t be playing a lot of position,” said Dickel during an episode of Coaches’ Unfiltered.
“Size is a premium, something that we don’t a whole lot here. But you know AJ Edu, Kai Sotto, and all the guys like that that are coming through — there’s no reason in the future that we can’t have that size. If you see how the games are being played now, it’s more athleticism and quickness and size that is helping you, being more positionless,” he continued.
“I think that’s great for Thirdy. He’s really gonna learn how to play. He’s playing for a Serbian coach [Branislav Vićentić], so he’s really gonna learn how to play internationally.”
Based on what he went through, Dickel knows it is possible.
During the early 2000s, New Zealand was just 96th in the world. Slowly, it climbed through the ranks, eventually peaking at world no. 4.
And it’s because the majority of the Tall Blacks got international exposure. Dickel believes that playing against foreign players will lessen the intimidation factor.
“Playing international basketball for fifteen years, the thing that matters the most is the other team has to respect you. They have to respect you. If they don’t respect the team, you have no chance against them because all of them are certified professional players, and in a lot of cases, they’re making millions of dollars a year,” the product of UNLV opined.
“So you gotta have to find a way to be able to catch up with that no matter how much you’re making. You gotta find the energy to get out there and outplay that guy on that game or they’re gonna win. That’s what Gilas is up against. We don’t have a whole lot of players playing overseas and I think that affects us negatively just being… We don’t learn the styles of play that other countries have, what other countries are doing.”
Fortunately, the country has a weapon in Tab Baldwin.
He was the chief tactician that steered New Zealand to world no. 4.
And so come the second window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in late November in Bahrain, Dickel believes the country is in safe hands.
“If you give him a group of young men, they’re gonna overachieve.
“I’m sure they’ll be ready and they’ll do well. We’re up against Korea in that window, — it’s not easy but look, I think he can get those guys ready, and the other guys that are involved with that can get those guys ready, and get really competitive against Thailand,” he shared.