WHILE admitting that PBA players are still needed in international play, Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin stressed the importance of toughening up amateur standouts this early.
“Not having the PBA players is a setback for the Gilas program because ultimately, we always hope we’re going to get an injection of talent, and very often we do. But we don’t always need them for the extensive training in the bubble,” Baldwin said on Radyo5 92.3 News FM’s Power and Play program hosted by former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala.
“We don’t look at it as a setback. We look at it as an opportunity to build on these younger players for the future, and then we hope that the PBA calendar can allow us significant access to the PBA players when they’re allowed to come in,” he added.
Gilas is training its guns on the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers tentatively set on June 14 to 20 at Clark.
The Filipino dribblers will also try to clinch a Tokyo Games slot in the Olympic qualifying tournament from June 29 to July 4 in Belgrade, Serbia.
Baldwin, 62, wants the pro league stars to spend time in training and added he appreciates the PBA’s support to the national cause.
“We don’t need the PBA players to come in just 3-4 days or a week before a competition. We need something more significant than that,” he said.
“We just have to play it every time by ear and appreciate what the PBA also does as well. As long as we have mutual appreciation to one another’s businesses, I think we’re gonna be fine.”
Ateneo playmaker SJ Belangel and Far Eastern University counterpart RJ Abarrientos, Blue Eaglets stars LeBron Lopez and Josh Lazaro, the Eagles’ Gian Mamuyac, Geo Chiu, Troy Mallillin, Jason Credo, and Kyle Ong led the new additions to the national team training pool.
Former Nazareth School of National University star Carl Tamayo, who transferred to University of the Philippines last year, complete the 10 new recruits.
Returning players from the last leg of the qualifiers are Ange Kouame, a naturalized player candidate; Dwight Ramos, Dave Ildefonso, and Chris Koon, who served as practice player in the second window.
Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto, the 2019 special Gilas draftees, are also expected to beef up the pool along with Jordan Heading, William Navarro, Tzaddy Rangel, and Jaydee Tungcab, who were tabbed in the special Gilas proceedings last March 14.
With a 3-0 record in Group A, Gilas was set to clash with South Korea last Feb. 18, a reset of their initial match that was postponed in the second window in Manama last November, and was also to take on Indonesia last Feb. 20 and then South Korea last Feb. 22 anew.
Gilas needs just a win to gain a berth in the FIBA Asia Cup set from Aug. 16 to 28 in Indonesia.