REALISTICALLY speaking, coach Tab Baldwin wants all hands on deck in Gilas Pilipinas' buildup for the 2023 Fiba World Cup.
That includes PBA players.
Baldwin has had considerable success over the past months with a youth-laden Gilas side made up of college standouts and overseas-based Kai Sotto, but he expects PBA stars to be back in the road to the global showpiece which the Philippines will co-host with Indonesia and Japan.
"I think that the evolution of the roster is probably the most difficult thing that we face, and also probably one of the most exciting things for our fans to talk about because everything has to be on the table," he told The Game on Tuesday.
Back in the mix
"The PBA has got to come back again in the mix, we got to talk about potential PBA players. There's going to be UAAP and NCAA next year, so there's going to have discussions with all the stakeholders for all of those involved."
Putting together the best lineup possible, Baldwin said, will require rounds of discussion by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) not only with the PBA but also with college leagues UAAP and NCAA.
Adding to the moving parts are the growing number of Filipino standouts who have taken their acts overseas, Baldwin added.
"Now of course, we have players heading overseas, and many of those players are going to have Fiba release clauses in their contract which is going to allow them the opportunity to come back but on a very, very limited preparation time," he said.
Six players, namely Thirdy Ravena (San-En NeoPhoenix), Kiefer Ravena (Shiga Lakestars), Bobby Ray Parks (Nagoya Diamond Dolphins), Javi Gomez de Liano (Ibaraki Robots), Juan Gomez de Liano (Earthfriends Tokyo Z), and Kemark Carino (Aomori Wat's) are set to play in the Japanese B.League.
Meanwhile, Kai Sotto has signed with the Adelaide 36ers in the Australian National Basketball League (NBL), while Lebron Lopez has taken his act to the United States with the Overtime Elite League.
This juggling act will require delicate decisions for Baldwin and SBP officials when they set out to put together teams not only for the World Cup qualifiers but also for regional events like the Asian Games, Southeast Asian Games and the Fiba Asia Cup.
Unlike Fiba-sactioned tournaments, the Asiad and SEA Games are more lenient with holders of dual citizenships and the selection process for these events will require a whole new dynamics, Baldwin added.
"There are a tremendous number of conversations, and when we get to things like the Asian Games, the Southeast Asian Games, these tournaments may not allow the professional players from overseas to come back because they're not Fiba tournaments. But they also introduce the possibility of so many Fil-Ams that could possibly come in. Will that be good for us in terms of preparation?"
"Coach Ryan [Gregorio] and I, we carry the main burden to sit down and make really tough decisions about players and about our stakeholders. We have to do a good job building bridges so that everybody wants to support this Gilas team help us win the games cause we're so desperate to win for our country."
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