NATIONAL coach Tab Baldwin welcomed the looming return to the original Gilas Pilipinas program, which will see the country’s top amateurs pick up the cudgels for the national team in lieu of their pro counterparts.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is set to make the shift in the wake of Fiba changing its calendar where national teams will be made to play home-and-away qualifiers instead of a single competition in the run-up to the 2019 Fiba World Cup in China.
The switch has cast doubt on the availability of PBA players for the qualifiers beginning in 2017, prompting the return to the old program.
“I think that it’s necessary,” Baldwin said after practice on Wednesday. “The Fiba calendar is not going to allow for any other approach, at least any other quality approach.”
“I think that we really don’t have many options,” he added. “I think that because of the new Fiba competition format for qualification, players are just not going to be available, so this is the most ideal solution that there is when you look around. This is the best option.”
Baldwin, however, said he is keeping his focus on the task at hand – the upcoming Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July, which will most likely be the last time a group of professional players will be representing Gilas in an international competition.
“I think that we’re a long way from defining exactly what that program will look like and exactly who will be in it,” the national coach said.
Kiefer Ravena, Mac Belo, and Kevin Ferrer lead the list of amateur stars expected to be in the future pool.
Still, Baldwin expressed hope that some pro players can squeeze in some national duty in the middle of a PBA season when they’re called upon.
“I still have a funny feeling that when it comes time to play games that you (will) see some mixture of PBA players and cadets,” Baldwin smiled. “I could be wrong. We may have that, we may not have access to that. But if we don’t, then those young boys better grow up pretty fast.”