GILAS Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin is tempering expectations this time as the cadets vie for top honors in the region as usual in the Southeast Asia Basketball Association (Seaba) Cup next week in Bangkok.
The Philippines, the king of hoops in the region, saw a reality check in last year’s Southeast Asian Games where the Filipino dribblers had to earn the gold medal for a change after facing tough competition.
And also with few amateur stars, including Kiefer Ravena and Ray Parks not in the lineup this year, then the road to regional basketball supremacy just became tougher.
“Everybody’s expectation is only that we achieve the gold medal, but we got to be realistic once we get there and see what the competition is because we don’t have our strongest team and even our strongest cadets,” Baldwin said.
“I think that last year’s scare at the SEA Games should have lit a fire under us,” he added. “I know that coach Nash and coach Josh (Reyes) are rightfully concerned about going to the tournament… but I think we have a good team, so we’ll just have to wait and see. They’ll fight hard to win a gold medal.”
The cadets, however, only had three weeks to prepare for the tournament that dangles two slots to the Fiba Asia Challenge in September in Iran.
“Competition is rising and rising, so they really have to play together ngayon, since mabilis lang 'yung time nila and sacrifices lang muna,” Ravena said. “They’re a bunch of star players grouped in one team.”
“But I still believe in them,” the longtime cadet and three-time SEA Games gold medalist was quick to add. “Half of those guys, I’ve been with them in the past RP teams and past youth teams and they’re capable of taking the gold back to the Philippines where it belongs talaga pag sa Southeast Asia.”