IT'S easy for many to look at the absence of PBA players from the Gilas Pilipinas pool as a setback for the national team program, but Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) program director Tab Baldwin looks at it differently.
To the American-Kiwi mentor, the youthful pool bereft of PBA stars gives the federation an opportunity to plant the building blocks for Gilas' future.
"Not having the PBA players is a setback for the Gilas program because ultimately, we always hope we're going to get an injection of talent, and very often we do. But we don't always need them for the extensive training in the bubble," he told Radyo5's Power and Play with Noli Eala.
"We don't look at it as a setback. We look at it as an opportunity to build on these younger players for the future, and then we hope that the PBA calendar can allow us significant access to the PBA players when they're allowed to come in."
That's just the tough balancing act the SBP needs to make, which is all the more complicated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The PBA gave the green light to a number of its players, led by Kiefer Ravena, CJ Perez, and Roger Pogoy, to join the Gilas training bubble back in January for the supposed third window in February.
But when the health scare forced the qualifiers' cancellation and eventual pushback to June, the pro league and the federation decided that it's for the best to put the cadets at the forefront.
"We prepare, we build, and it gets cancelled. And then the PBA want to run their business too, and even they are having a hard time," Baldwin professed.
For Baldwin, it's a better scenario than having a mishmash of PBA callups with little time to prepare.
What he'd like more is to fully integrate these pros into the system he's building with Gilas, which entails longer training time with Gilas to better equip them for the opponents they're bound to play.
"[We don't need the PBA players to come in] just 3-4 days or a week before a competition. we need something more significant than that," he said.
"We just have to play it every time by ear and appreciate what the PBA also does as well. As long as we have mutual appreciation to one another's businesses, I think we're gonna be fine."