Gilas Pilipinas out to get best version for future tournaments

MORE THAN just preparing for its upcoming tournaments, Gilas Pilipinas is trying to find the best pathway for its program moving forward. — FIBA

GILAS PILIPINAS continues to grind it out in a “bubble” training at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, looking to come up with the best representation possible for future tournaments.

Speaking at the radio-online program Power & Play with Noli Eala on Saturday, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) program director Tab Baldwin shared that the men’s national basketball team’s preparation continues notwithstanding the challenges presented by the ongoing health pandemic.

In line for Gilas are the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup third qualifying window in Clark on June 14-20 and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade on June 29-July 4.

But more than just preparing for the upcoming tournaments, Mr. Baldwin said it is important for them, especially now, to find the best pathway for the program moving forward.

“Everybody is trying to do a balancing act. There is no perfect pathway and we’re just trying to find the best one possible,” said Mr. Baldwin who spoke from the INSPIRE facilities.

The former national team coach underscored the importance of all stakeholders, including the management of the SBP, the players and coaches and other partners, to work together to address challenges that will come.

He went on to say that work is not going to be fluid each time, but cooperation must come if the common vision of pushing Philippine basketball forward is to be achieved.

Currently training in the bubble are an all-cadet player crew from which members of the teams seeing action for the FIBA Asia Cup window and Olympic Qualifying Tournament will come from.

In an earlier pronouncement, the SBP said it is going the all-cadet route for the upcoming tournaments to partly ease the burden on the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), which is grappling to chart its path for its new season with the pandemic still a going concern.

PBA players had been staples in previous iterations of Gilas.

Mr. Baldwin said not having the pro players is a “setback” on its own, but something they are looking to work around and build opportunities from.

“Not having the PBA players, every time that happens, is a setback for the Gilas program. But we don’t always need them for the extensive training we’re doing in the bubble,” said Mr. Baldwin, also the head coach of the men’s basketball team of Ateneo de Manila University.

Adding, “We don’t look at it as a setback, it is as an opportunity for us to focus on these younger players to build them for the future.”

Players in the bubble are cadets Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, Dave Ildefonso, Chris Koon, Juan Gomez de Liano, and naturalization candidate Angelo Kouame.

Also part of the list are 2019 PBA Gilas draftees Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, and Rey Suerte and so do the team’s special picks in the recent PBA draft — Jordan Heading (Terrafirma), Will Navarro (NorthPort), Tzaddy Rangel (NLEX), and Jaydee Tungcab (TNT).

Expanding the training pool are Gilas invitees LeBron Lopez, SJ Belangel, Gian Mamuyac, Troy Mallillin, Geo Chiu, Kyle Ong, Jason Credo, and Josh Lazaro, who are all from Ateneo.

Also invited were Carl Tamayo of University of the Philippines and RJ Abarrientos of Far Eastern University.

The team is training under the staff composed of Mr. Baldwin, head coach Jong Uichico and assistants Caloy Garcia, Alton Lister, Boyet Fernandez, Sandy Arespachochaga, Gabby Severino, and Dex Aseron. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo