By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
ONE with having the right set of players and system for the country’s basketball program to go far, national coaches Tab Baldwin and Jong Uichico welcome efforts to go in that direction.
In separate podcast interviews last week, Messrs. Baldwin and Uichico, part of the coaching team for the youth-laden Gilas Pilipinas squad that recently saw action in the second window of the International Basketball Association (FIBA) Asia Cup Qualifiers, said considering the international basketball landscape right now, focus should be given to shoring up the country’s hoops program not only for the present, but, more importantly, moving forward.
The two said the process could take some time, but it should not stop stakeholders from going for it if they want Philippine basketball to progress as hoped.
“There’s a lot to work on, but we have an excellent environment now to begin developing and building better basketball players and a better basketball system,” said Mr. Baldwin in his second guesting on Tiebreaker Vods’ Coaches Unfiltered podcast on Dec. 4.
The champion Ateneo coach, in his capacity as Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Inc. (SBP) program director, helped compose the pool of players for the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Bahrain, and assisted head coach Uichico during the games.
SBP and the Gilas coaching staff went for youth in the window to showcase what the country’s young players can do and give them international exposure, in line with the thrust of preparing for the future, including for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, where the country is one of the host nations along with Japan and Indonesia.
It was a move that paid instant dividends as the team of amateur and collegiate stars not only competed in the window but won big, sweeping Thailand in their two-game series by an average winning margin of 28 points.
The twin victories helped the Philippines stay unscathed in the qualifiers and claim solo leadership in Group A with a 3-0 record heading into the final window set for February next year.
Mr. Baldwin said their run in Bahrain had its share of bumps, but overall provided much to take cue from as they sharpen their program moving forward.
“I’m really happy going into this experience with this Gilas pool of players… I knew what was coming, dealing with the players and it’s always a blessing, it’s always fun and exciting, but it’s always a challenge. There are difficulties in dealing with younger players, there’s so much teaching,” he said.
“There was more teaching when you have young players like we had against Thailand,” Mr. Uichico said, for his part, in his session on the 2OT podcast on Dec. 3.
“There’s more teaching because they still do not have the experience and learning curve of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players, but you have to forge ahead and keep teaching; which is why it is a good thing that this kind of program has started,” he added.
Part of the pool of players that saw action in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Bahrain were Dwight Ramos, Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, Kobe Paras, Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, Will Navarro, Rey Suerte, Justine Baltazar, Calvin Oftana, Kenmark Carino, Jaydee Tungcab and Dave Ildefonso.
For the next window, both Messrs. Baldwin and Uichico said they will carefully chart their plans as far as composition of the players is concerned to come out with the best result possible.
“We are planning and obviously we have to talk to all of our partners that are involved in the basketball landscape, my good friends at the PBA, SBP, our bosses and all of the college teams, too,” said Mr. Baldwin.
Mr. Uichico said the team could have PBA players back, but he would not be surprised if players from the second window get a call-up anew.