USED to coaching professional players in the past, Jong Uichico is bracing for this brand-new task of guiding a young Gilas Pilipinas squad in the November window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers.
He's not saying no to this opportunity, of course. Rather, he's embracing this new endeavor of leading the all-cadets Philippine team in Manama next week.
"It's a welcome challenge and it's something new," said Uichico during the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) press conference on Thursday. "We always welcome the challenge and we're trying to do the best we can in making them ready for the international game."
This will be the fourth go-round for the 58-year-old mentor serving the national team, albeit a different one as he'll be tasked in building what would be Gilas' future.
"It's an adjustment for me 'cause you need a lot more teaching but not making things too complicated for them," said Uichico, who is joined by SBP program director Tab Baldwin, Boyet Fernandez, and Alton Lister in the Gilas coaching staff.
"Lucky for us, the young players are willing learners and are hardworkers, so that's something positive we can look forward to, that energy that we can look forward to."
But if his last stint was any indication, Uichico will do just well in Bahrain.
He guided an all-cadets Sinag Pilipinas squad, bannered up by Christian Standhardinger, Kiefer Ravena, and Bobby Ray Parks to the gold medal in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur.
A plus from that campaign was that he'll have afamiliar face from that team in Kobe Paras at his disposal for this series of qualifying games.
Save for Paras, though, experience is obviously lacking for this team, a facet which Uichico and the coaching staff are working hard to combat.
To solve that issue, the Gilas coaching staff is emphasizing on building the team's chemistry and simplifying the system for the players.
"They're young and they're inexperienced, so we're trying to keep things as simple as possible so that they can comprehend and execute the best way they can," said Uichico, who coached the Philippine team in the 2002 Asian Games in Busan.
"We hope that we can get that chemistry as soon as possible. We have a few more practices before we leave on Sunday, and hopefully, we'll all be ready for our first game."