Baldwin charting Gilas course toward PH World Cup hosting, eyes dream front line of Kai, June Mar
There may be plenty of uncertainty as international tournaments remain on hold in the midst of a global pandemic, but Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin isn’t losing sight of the country’s goal of a terrific showing when the country hosts the Fiba World Cup in 2023.
Baldwin reiterated that overseas training and playing in more international tournaments are the way to go to build a team that can compete against the world’s finest three years from now.
“Everything is geared towards 2023,” Baldwin told the Inquirer over the phone on Wednesday night.
“The plan is for the Gilas pool of a players to develop into international-caliber players [and] get them more games without sacrificing results. In all honesty, you want the best possible team in 2023.”
This direction was immediately on display when a mix of young talents and veterans from the pro league joined forces to power Gilas to a 100-70 walloping of Indonesia in their qualifying match for the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup in Jakarta in February.
With the exception of PBA players in the squad, the Gilas pool, which included several former collegiate stars who went through a special draft in the PBA, was supposed to be in the United States for training this month if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.
But whether or not the likes of Gilas pool young guns Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte, Allyn Bulanadi, Isaac Go, Thirdy Ravena and Jaydee Tungcab eventually make it to the World Cup team will depend on their ability to improve and develop as players.
Baldwin has mentioned the likes of 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto, 6-8 AJ Edu, 6-8 Carl Tamayo, 6-6 Kobe Paras, 6-6 Troy Rosario and 6-10 June Mar Fajardo as his dream front-court players for the World Cup. Sotto is currently training in the United States in a bid to become the first homegrown Filipino to make the NBA, while Edu is recuperating from an ACL injury. Tamayo is still with the National U program.
“We are not just going to develop them with games, but an important component is highly intense training and [going] overseas. The circumstances are different because we bring in other players that’s certainly going to challenge them. But right now that is obviously on hold.”
Qualifying for the Fiba Asia Cup will be the immediate goal for the program. The tournament has been initially scheduled on Aug. 17 to 29 next year, but Fiba could push it further to a later date to avoid the calendar clash with the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“When all of this crisis is done, we will definitely reembark on the Gilas program,” Baldwin said.
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