Preparation started early for Gilas Pilipinas’ latest iteration, as head coach Tab Baldwin invited former players JC Intal, Dondon Hontiveros, and Gary David, among others to join the team’s initial meeting and give a talk.
Later on, the pool — comprised of more key pieces, more height, and more firepower this time — took on the Meralco Gym for the start of Gilas 4.0 practice.
It’s the way Baldwin wanted it to be. His squad is preparing for tougher opposition in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July 2016, the last chance for the Philippines to make Rio.
“I expected it,” Baldwin commented on the perfect attendance, save for the recuperating Ranidel de Ocampo. “I was told that was going to happen. I am happy to see everybody here. It’s really good to see the cream of the Philippine basketball crop on one basketball court at one time.”
With a new pool to manage, Baldwin also seeks to form a new identity with the team, which shall compete against some of the world’s top nations next year.
The goal remains the same: build chemistry and have a team working like a hoops family.
“It is a brand new start. It is going to have a different identity. We have a different group of people. We will have to build the most important component of the group which is how these guys live together, play together, like one another, and prepare to bleed for one another,” Baldwin said.
He took time to pay tribute to the former members of the national team, and he added they are always welcome to his basketball court.
“My affinity, respect, and appreciation for them is tremendous. They really care about this program and they are always welcome,” Baldwin shared.
“It is tough for some of them not to be part of the actual training pool but who knows what will happen.”
The first practice — and the start of a long road to Rio (again) — showed promise. With World Cup alums and additions technically not new to representing the country, it is clear the program is bent on sending the best 12 which can stand against the rest of the world.
Baldwin is familiar with what to do, and he is liking what he is seeing so far.
“Similar to what we did with 3.0, we have a few more weapons here. We have the potential stronger inside game with this team, we have more proven shooters, more weapons, bigger guns, more deadly on the other end. That’s what we want.”
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