While the current batch of Gilas Pilipinas has exceeded the Filipino fans’ expectations by virtue of their spirited performance in both the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and FIBA Olympic Qualifiers, head coach Tab Baldwin believes there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
Gilas won all three games in the Asia Cup Qualifiers, two against arch-nemesis South Korea, but dropped both matches in the Olympic Qualifiers which took place in Belgrade, Serbia.
The national team pushed world number 5 Serbia to the limit and even held a 1-point lead in the closing minutes of the game before succumbing to immense pressure. The youngsters, not surprisingly, failed to recover their rhythm and lost by 27 points to the Dominican Republic the following day.
Baldwin didn’t offer any excuses but identified the areas where the team excelled and where they faltered.
“Defensively, in the backcourt, we were exposed by the Dominican Republic — and it wasn’t for lack of effort and it wasn’t for lack of training. It may be a question of guys size, strength, length and experience. There’s not much you can do as far as experience,” explained Baldwin during his online interview in The Link podcast.
“For size and length, obviously we missed Dwight Ramos. We’ve thought of an opportunity for Thirdy Ravena, who might have helped us. We missed Matt Nieto with his defensive presence and his leadership. I think that’s one area that we got exposed,” he added.
Notwithstanding the loss, Baldwin believes the team showcased their true potential against the Serbians.
“Interestingly, we were not exposed on that in the Serbia game, probably because Serbia tried to use the ball screens a lot — and we worked extremely hard on defending ball screens. Apart from Milos Teodosic, who is a genius in the game of basketball, I thought we defended their backcourt pretty well. But when it comes to the isolation plays which the Dominicans used, we were really found walking,” said the concurrent national team program director.
When asked if he would be willing to tap PBA players to reinforce the team, Baldwin answered in the affirmative.
“Nothing has changed. We all know that there’s a continuous relationship between the SBP and the PBA and they’re working really hard to keep that relationship. Moving forward, everything is exactly the same. If the PBA has an opportunity to release players, I believe they would do that. And if those players can make the necessary time and commitment into our program, that means to join significant number of practices to be able to integrate to our playing discipline and chemistry, then our arms are wide open for that,” said Baldwin.
“But if either of those things are accomplished, then it’s really going to diminish instead of strengthen the team. We’re all working together. We’re talking here of PBA player availability and we’re not talking here of anything detrimental to the PBA or detrimental to the Gilas program. We’re all doing the best that we can to put the best Gilas team together.”