CEBU CITY – How does the Gilas Pilipinas plan on battling the massive giants their opponents wield in the upcoming Fiba Asia Men’s Championship next week?
While there are plenty of ways to go about it, one weapon head coach Tab Baldwin plans to utilize against the likes of Iran’s 7-foot-2 behemoth Hamed Haddadi and China’s seven-footer Wang Zheli should they match up with their teams is their speed.
Fortunately for the Gilas, they have that in spades.
“This team is the fastest team I’ve ever coached,” said Baldwin whose current roster boasts of athletic and agile players such as Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva and Gabe Norwood.
Proof of that blazing speed was one particular Gilas practice session. The 12-man team was divided into groups of three and each trio was asked to do drills that entailed one player rebounding, another passing and the other making the most lay-ups in a span of a minute.
The first round saw Ranidel de Ocampo, Troy Rosario and Abueva make seven layups. The man known as 'The Beast' had a chance to make eight, but in true Abueva head-scratching fashion, opted to take a pull-up jumper that missed instead of going all the way to the rim with plenty of time to spare.
The second round of the drill saw Romeo and Norwood sink eight layups each. Then came Rosser, the 25-year old wingman from Cal Poly Pomona, who with long strides easily broke the eight-basket mark and finished with nine, much to the amazement of the nationals.
It should be noted that the team's naturalized player, Andray Blatche, finished the two-round drill before crumpling in a heap on the sidelines.
But Baldwin knows all too well that mere speed will not cut it against Asia’s giants, and drew inspiration from the New Zealand Tall Blacks squad that he coached to fourth place in the 2002 Fiba World Championship in Indiana, USA.
“Would you believe that our starting center was just 6-foot-6? Actually, Sean Marks was our starting center but he got injured,” shared the outspoken American-New Zealander.
“But we could take a page out of the Tall Blacks team that I coached and gain a higher understanding of the game but that takes time and experience and that’s what we’re working on. I think these guys recognize that. It’s an area where if we could improve rapidly in that department, it goes a long way towards success.”