GILAS Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin is growing frustrated over the continued lack of players taking part in national practice with the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July nearing.
Only 13 players, including two observers in June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter, showed up for the national team's first training session this year - and its first after a two-month break - on Monday night at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center inside the Ateneo campus.
“But what has that (getting frustrated) accomplished?” Baldwin asked after practice. “I’ve got to work with the guys in here and we got to do the best that we can.”
“But they’re all supposed to be here,” the American-Kiwi mentor was quick to add. “It’s been consistent: absences and lack of participation in practices. And a lot of it are sometimes for good reasons – reasons that we have approved. But that didn’t help me do my job.
“I want to do my job as well as I can for Gilas, for the country, for the fans, for my boss,” he continued. “And I need the compliance of the players to do that.”
While the absent players, including Jayson Castro, Calvin Abueva, Greg Slaughter, and Paul Lee, were all excused, Baldwin is letting them know their spots in the team for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament are not secure.
“All I can do is: give them a hard message that those on the court that work are going to be the guys that I select. That’s the way it is,” Baldwin said.
Still, the national coach believes Gilas, despite returning to practice just on Monday, are hardly behind schedule – in comparison to group-mates France and New Zealand, among others.
However, that edge in preparation is being watered down by the continued lack of players in the Monday-only practices, Baldwin rued.
“We might have an edge in terms of preparation, but we have to use that preparation wisely,” he said. “And this is the source of my frustration: we have a good opportunity on these Monday nights, but not if we don’t get the one-hundred percent of the mind and body.”
From hereon, Baldwin said the only the only reason he’ll allow players to be absent from practices is injury.
“We need guys to prioritize differently than what they’re prioritizing right now,” he said. “If you had a game yesterday, you have to get here and work. If you have a game tomorrow, get out here and work.”
“I’m not going to overburden those guys,” he added. “I understand what’s at stake, but if anybody’s trying to protect themselves against injuries or anything else, it just doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to be a ballplayer if you’re going to play for the national team.”