GILAS Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin is convinced Ateneo High School standout Francis “LeBron” Lopez, although he still has a lot to learn, could be one of future key pieces of the national team.
“Lebron (Lopez) has a lot to learn about the concepts of the game and understanding the nuances of execution. But he’s just a great kid, really willing to learn, always attentive, and always competitive when it’s time to play,” Baldwin said in a recent episode of The Game.
“I think people are pretty accurate in their assessment that he is an outstanding athlete.
He certainly fits the criteria of length, really active guy and a lot of energy,” he added.
The 6-foot-5 Lopez, 17, is the youngest new addition to the national team training pool at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
Baldwin sees a lot of good things on the high-flying forward.
“He has a very bright future and I think he’s a great situation here in the Gilas bubble,” Baldwin said. “He gets along really well with the other players and there’s a humility in the kid as well, understanding that he is the youngest.”
So far, so good for Lopez, according to Baldwin.
“He doesn’t try to big shot anybody because he has a big name, and he has big following,” he said. “He doesn’t act like that at all. I really appreciate the kid and he’s doing a great job.”
Aside from Lopez and Blue Eaglets teammate Josh Lazaro, Blue Eagles playmaker SJ Belangel and Far Eastern University counterpart RJ Abarrientos, the Eagles’ Gian Mamuyac, Geo Chiu, Troy Mallillin, Jason Credo, and Kyle Ong led the new additions to the 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 boost the pool along with Jordan Heading, William Navarro, Tzaddy Rangel, and Jaydee Tungcab, who were tabbed in special Gilas proceedings last March 14.
The nationals are training their sights on the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers tentatively set from June 14 to 20 in Clark.