Baldwin won’t keep retired Alapag from attempting Gilas return
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin isn’t discounting the possibility of former national team captain Jimmy Alapag wearing the country’s colors again.
In fact, Baldwin seemed as if he’s already preparing himself for that moment when Alapag, who is also serving as a practice player for Gilas apart from being an assistant coach, will ask for a slot in the final roster.
“You don’t have to do much to get him to make a big sacrifice for the Gilas uniform and for this country. He’ll do that at the drop of a hat,” Baldwin said of Alapag, who announced his retirement from basketball seven months ago. “But it’s really going to be case of whether I think we need whatever skill set he’s bringing to the team when I have to make that decision.”
“A hunger may develop in that guy where he’s gonna demand a spot in this team and if that does develop that way it will be interesting,” Baldwin added. “If he just continues to say to me ‘coach if you need me call on me,’ then that would be fine. But if all of a sudden I see that twinkle in his eye then there might be some fireworks out there worth watching.”
With LA Tenorio, who was tipped to be next in line after Alapag as the team’s leader, begging off and fellow Gilas mainstays Marc Pingris and June Mar Fajardo still doubtful, Alapag’s leadership and experience will be of great help to Gilas and its newcomers.
Alapag had already said he’s “absolutely” open to returning if the opportunity comes. Last week, the opportunity to be a practice player came and Alapag had no second thoughts.
“I’m just so pleased and honored that when there was a call that ‘Hey, we need some extra bodies,’ he was the first guy to put his hand up. He wanted to be there and he wanted to be with what he calls as his brothers,” Baldwin said.
The 37-year-old Alapag said he’s excited to work with former Gilas teammates and ex-Talk ’N Text teammate Asi Taulava who, at 42, was also invited to be part of the pool. Alapag is also looking forward to teaching the young guys and new faces on the team in Troy Rosario, Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and JC Intal.
Alapag, who is not only practicing but training as hard as anyone on the team, is also relishing the time being able to closely work with the newly-formed Gilas pool.
“If I’m gonna be here, I’m gonna compete. It’s not in my DNA to do otherwise and at the end of the day, it’s gonna help the other guards and help this team,” Alapag said.
“To have an opportunity to come out here with Gilas 3.0 and to have a chance to not only be reunited with the big fella, the young blonde guy (Taulava), and of course guys like Dray (Blatche) and Gabe (Norwood) and the rest of the guys especially even the younger guys like Calvin (Abueva) and Terrence (Romeo) they’re two of the top guys in our country today, to be able to be part of the process and really see them through this experience – that’s the nature of what this program is about.”
The last time Alapag played in an official game was in March when he was honored by the PBA to be part of the PBA All-Star Game in Palawan and yet there’s no question that he can still be part of the team and contribute.
Alapag is one of the fiercest competitors the PBA has seen and Baldwin knows it would take a lot to keep the former PBA MVP from earning a spot in the final lineup if he wants to be part of it.
“It will be up to him first. If he gives me a nod and says ‘I wanna be in this roster, I wanna be in your final 12’ then it’s up to me,” said Baldwin. “It will be really interesting to see how that evolves. If I tell him to move aside because we’ve got enough players out there if other players come in as such as that, it will be interesting to see how he responds.”
“If he looks at me and says I’m not ready to move aside then all bets are off. I’m certainly not going to tell him not to try.” CFC