GILAS Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin knows best when it comes to international play.
Talent is needed but that alone won’t hack it.
“There’s a certain criteria that we look at for international players and I think that a lot of people will say just get the best players, and certainly, the elite players at whatever age we’re talking about, we do want them,” Baldwin said in an episode of The Game last Monday night.
“Beyond that, we’re looking for intangibles, an advanced understanding of the game,” he added.
The multi-titled Ateneo coach is convinced he has what he had been looking for in young guns SJ Belangel and RJ Abarrientos, whom he both likened to Gilas skipper and NLEX star Kiefer Ravena.
“These two guys (Belangel and Abarrientos) are not the physical prototype that we’re looking for, but they’re sort of around the Kiefer Ravena-model who’s a very clever basketball player who reads the game extremely well, and SJ and RJ are sort of cut from the same mold,” Baldwin said.
“What they might lack in elite talent, they make up for basketball IQ that is very advanced.”
The 5-foot-11 Belangel is in his third year with the defending three-time UAAP champion Blue Eagles, while Abarrientos, a nephew of PBA great Johnny, is out to prove his worth with Far Eastern University.
Belangel suited up for Gilas Youth in the 2015 FIBA Under-16 Championships. Abarrientos saw action in the FIBA 3×3 Under-23 World Cup in 2018.
While admitting Belangel and Abarrientos are lacking in size, Baldwin, 62, maintained they have what it takes.
“In the international game, because it’s not an overly athletic game, it’s a very intellectual game, a player like that can fit in even though physically, they’re a little bit inferior,” he said.
“We’re looking for elite talent, we’re looking for length, and the guys that have that IQ where the game comes easy to them in spite of their physical assets or deficiencies.”
Aside from Belangel and Abarrientos, Ateneo High School standout LeBron Lopez, the Eagles’ Gian Mamuyac, Josh Lazaro, 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 moved to University of the Philippines last year, completed 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.
2019 special Gilas draftees Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto are also expected to boost the pool.
Ditto with Jordan Heading, William Navarro, Tzaddy Rangel, and Jaydee Tungcab, who were tabbed in special Gilas proceedings last March 14.
The Philippine five is training its sights on the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers tentatively set from June 14 to 20 in 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.
With a 3-0 card 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 play Indonesia last Feb. 20 and then South Korea last Feb. 22 anew.