‘Gilas pool slots up’
GILAS Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin yesterday said the decision of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) to throw its all-out support behind the national team program should raise the level of competition in the 41st season as the move has virtually opened the door for every player to be part of the pool for next year’s Olympic qualifiers.
With the pro league committed to lend its biggest stars to the national team for future international tournaments, Baldwin said players should see competing in the PBA as an opportunity to gain a shot at playing for the country.
Under Baldwin, Gilas Pilipinas came home with a silver medal in the Fiba Asia Championship in Changsha City, China, early this month, barely missing out on an outright spot to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year.
“I expect more from everyone now—not just from the Gilas players—because it seems the door is open for Gilas for all the players (in the league),” Baldwin told the Inquirer shortly before the league’s new season opened at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“I would like players to have the mentality that the way they perform (in the PBA) is a trial for the national team. That means every time they go out, they approach the game with the mentality of helping their teams and playing well at every minute on the floor.”
Baldwin missed several players on his initial wish-list for the Fiba Asia tournament, including reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo who was out due to an injury.
But the veteran bench tactician believes there won’t be a repeat of the same incident now that the PBA has expressed its all out support for Gilas.
The league has come up with a 17-man pool for Baldwin to pick from, while moving the Governors’ Cup to a later date to allow the national team to prepare for the Olympic qualifiers in July next year.
“I’m hoping that moving forward, everyone gets behind the national program now and never look back again and say we wish we had this in the past,” said Baldwin.
“Hopefully, it’s a start of a good era for Philippine basketball in terms of everybody being on board and everybody being helpful and cooperative.”
Baldwin was honored by the league along with the rest of the Gilas 3.0 during a short opening ceremony that was shelved for a few days due to Typhoon “Lando.”
“It’s just humbling to be tapped on the shoulder, particularly because we didn’t win the gold. We appreciate it,” said Baldwin. “We want to give back with hard work and good performances.”