Baldwin fishing for opportunities from SEA of dead ends
Tab Baldwin sounds like a person trying to find his way through a swirl of possibilities and dead ends.
Appearing on a radio-web show, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas national team project director is whipping up a Gilas Pilipinas pool that’s being honed for two goals: One already within reach, the other a longshot.
And he’s going about it with a blueprint that keeps changing, depending on the latest circumstance.
“Everybody is trying to do a balancing act,” Baldwin told Noli Eala on the former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) commissioner’s show Power & Play on Saturday. “At one time we’re going to have a bubble competition and a Fiba (International Basketball Federation) tournament, and we have a [PBA game scheduled] once a week. We prepare, we build and then that gets canceled.”
That’s quite an understated way to put it, considering the roadblocks that have been put in front of the national program, which is aiming to qualify for the Fiba Asia Cup in August and the Tokyo Olympics in July. Gilas Pilipinas needs just one win out of three remaining games to get into the continental hoop show piece. For the Olympic qualifier, where it is in the presence of teams that bruised its bottom with a couple of world-class spankings, the national team may need a prayer.
And the uncertainty in preparations certainly doesn’t help.
“We’re just gonna roll now where the best laid plans of mice and men are going awry and they’re going awry on a regular basis,” Baldwin said
The former national coach is preparing a squad that won’t have PBA talent in the roster and might even fill out some slots in the lineup with kids who have not played college ball yet.
“Not having the PBA players—every time that happens—that is a step back for the Gilas program because ultimately, we always hope we’re going to get an injection of talent. Very often we do, but we don’t always need them for the extensive training we’re doing for the bubble,” Baldwin said.
But the onetime World Cup semifinal coach for New Zealand tries hard to look at the chances his predicaments provide.“We look at it as an opportunity to focus on these younger players, to build them for the future,” he said.
When Gilas reopened its training camp two weeks ago, Baldwin welcomed not just holdovers from the February camp but young standouts like Lebron Lopez (Ateneo High School), RJ Abarrientos (Far Eastern University), Kyle Ong (Ateneo) and Carl Tamayo (University of the Philippines), none of who have tasted collegiate varsity action yet.
“We brought in all the players whom we think are serious candidates for future Gilas teams. And that future might come in quickly—it may come in June, where we might roll out a team that has teenagers in it. That’s very, very possible. And then we brought in some players who we think are potential prospects,” said Baldwin.
And to backstop that young pool is a soon-to-be-Filipino who hasn’t played pro basketball yet, Ateneo’s center from Ivory Coast Ange Kouame. Baldwin, though, has high hopes for Kouame.
“I want everyone to stop for a second and think rationally, who do most coaches, when assembling their national team, who do they select? You can go to an All-Star team, get all the PBA players that we wanted; we take the Roger Pogoys, Paul Lees, CJ Perezes, June Mar Fajardos, all of them are very productive offensive players,” Baldwin said. “Why then, in selecting a naturalized player, would we bring in a naturalized player that needs to have the ball in his hands all the time? Why not bring a player who’s a great rebounder, a great rim protector and a defensive stalwart to play behind these excellent offensive players who are anywhere from mediocre to good defensive players?
“My assembly of potential naturalized players includes guys that we believe in as great rebounders, great locker room players, great rim protectors and guys that play with a lot of energy and will be great teammates, and I believe Ange Kouame fits all of that.”
Baldwin hopes that all the balancing act everyone is doing to get Gilas Pilipinas prepared for its twin goals will fit its purpose in the end.