Lebron Lopez and Kobe Paras are cut from the same mold.
Two wingers who stand at least 6-foot-5, they have a reputation for their highlight dunks.
But highlights mean nothing in basketball. Just ask Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin.
For him, he is bringing both 17-year-old Lopez and 18-year-old Kai Sotto to turn them into basketball players that can be called up by the country when needed.
“Everybody has massive expectations of Lebron because he can dunk it — well, that’s zero reasons to have expectations of a basketball player, and I mean zero.
“Just because a guy is tall and can dunk means nothing in the game of basketball at the elite level. Because Kai is 7-foot-3, that means nothing,” Baldwin told Hoops Life, presented by SMART Sports.
“What it does mean is you give them some attention to see what can be cultivated. And because of that and because of the players that they are and have become at this point in time, they deserve more than attention. They’ve earned a right to be included in the mix. And then from there, it’s just up to their continued development and how quickly they can make an impact,” he continued.
Lopez is the youngest in the pool of 21 Baldwin has formed for both the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers’ Clark window and the Belgrade Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Other under-21 teens invited to the Calambubble are Carl Tamayo (20), SJ Belangel (21), and RJ Abarrientos (21).
Baldwin sees no problem with the youth of this team even if they have a tough task ahead.
“I think there’s plenty of precedents around the world.”
Of course, there’s Ricky Rubio who made his Olympic debut at the age of 17 for Spain. Poland’s 7-foot-1 beanpole Olek Balcerowski played in the 2019 FIBA World Cup at just 17 years of age. RJ Barrett of Canada also played in the most recent World Cup at just 18-year-old.
Then there’s Baldwin protege Mark Dickel.
“Coach Mark Dickel made the national team in New Zealand when he was 18 years old,” said Baldwin.
“Why? Because he was ready.”