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Tough challenge for Gilas ahead
Tab Baldwin
STAR/File

Tough challenge for Gilas ahead

Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Gilas project director Tab Baldwin isn’t inclined to be distracted by factors not under his control and said the other day other people’s expectations are irrelevant as his only focus is to get the young guns of the New Generation national team ready for battle at the FIBA Asia Cup third qualifying window in Clark on June 16-20 and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia on June 29-July 4.

“We’re doing the best we can to get us prepared,” said Baldwin in a taped interview for the first episode of the soon-to-be-launched online show “Play It Right.” “We’re a work in progress. We’re still in the early stages of our evolution and in the middle of game preparations. Our ultimate goal is 2023 and beyond. My expectations are extremely high. I understand what these guys are capable of doing. They’re capable of being outstanding at any given moment. We’re working on their ability to sustain.”

Baldwin said he realizes the quality of opposition in Clark and Serbia will be lofty but despite the disparity in experience, it’s no excuse for Gilas not to play well. “I’m not given to a world of excuses,” he said. “We know what our guys can do, they can play as well as anybody. It’s about playing hard for 40 minutes, three days in a short tournament. It’s a new adventure for the players. They have the energy for it. We’re under pressure. They’re hungry for a fight. Some days, they’ll struggle. Tough challenges are coming and there will be failures but we always remind them to experience failures in the moment, subjugate egos and leave the frustrations behind.”

Ange Kouame’s naturalization to play for Gilas is a big boost and Baldwin said the Ivory Coast center will help the cause. “He has a tremendous motor, pursues the ball better than anybody, has an incredible level of energy,” said Baldwin. “He’s relatively inexperienced but we’re looking at 10 to 15 years with Ange on the national team.”

While the pandemic has made it difficult to lay out a perfect practice plan, Baldwin said that’s life. “The SBP and PBA have their heart in the right place,” he said. “We’re hoping to play PBA teams in the short and long term. They’re trying to make it happen but it may not happen because of protocols in the pandemic. Do we leave the bubble to play the PBA, do they enter the bubble, can we go back and forth? In July, there could be a world of possibilities. Maybe, we could go overseas to play or there may be another surge that will close our doors again. We don’t know. We plan to expand our pool before the FIBA Asia Cup in August, bring in more players to continue the process and introduce them to our culture and system.”

Baldwin also spoke about the players’ mentality and the coaches’ role in creating chemistry within the ranks. He mentioned the reality of “moving pieces” in dealing with players who may or may not join the national pool. The interview bared Baldwin’s inner thoughts which will be revealed for the first time in the coming show “Play It Right.”

TAB BALDWIN
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