DESPITE the uncertainty surrounding the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jakarta, Gilas Pilipinas is not losing time training and preparing for the biggest basketball conclave in the region.
As Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) awaits word from Fiba regarding the fate of the tournament given the sudden surge of COVID-19 cases in the Indonesian capital the past two weeks, the national team has begun its build up for the tournament pitting 16 of the teams that qualified in the quadrennial event.
Gilas training began over the weekend at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna under another bubble setup.
“What we’re doing is observing the situation. We understand the surge and we’re just waiting for a directive from Fiba,” said SBP special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio during a break in the PBA Philippine Cup games on Sunday where he served as a color analyst in the TV coverage.
“But at this point, we’re preparing as if it is all systems go. We are not slowing down on our preparations,” he added. “It’s a prestigious tournament that we are preparing for. A total of 16 of our Asian neighbors will be playing there and we’re not leaving anything to chance. As far as we are concerned, we have to prepare against formidable opponents and that we’re starting early.”
Just last week, Indonesia registered a new single high of 54,517 new cases, making the country the new epicenter of the deadly virus in Asia, surpassing India.
The growing numbers come at a time when Jakarta is preparing to host the tournament formerly known as the FIBA Asia Men’s Championship starting on August 17.
Likewise, Indonesia was recently included by the Philippine government among the nations covered by travel restrictions until July 31.
Baldwin will coach Gilas in Fiba Asia Cup
This developed as Gregorio admitted Tab Baldwin has the complete trust of the SBP that the coaching reins for the Asia Cup are again in good hands.
“Yes, I’m confirming right now that coach Tab Baldwin will coach Gilas Pilipinas in the coming Asia Cup,” Gregorio stressed.
Baldwin is a no-brainer after steering Gilas to a three-game sweep of its assignment in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifier in the Clark bubble, and later, a gritty stand against world No. 5 Serbia and the Dominican Republic during the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade.
The American-Kiwi mentor earlier said, the SBP and himself in his capacity as project director of the men’s national team program, will sit down and assess whether there will be any Gilas coaching changes for the Asia Cup shortly after both qualifiers for the Olympics and Asia Cup.
As it is, Baldwin and his coaching staff of Jong Uichico, Boyet Fernandez, and Sandy Arespacochaga already assembled their 20-man pool that is now in deep training at the Inspire Sports Academy for the August 17 tournament.
“The concepts of coach Tab Baldwin will be set in place again. Majority of the players inside already understand the system that were playing, and what we’re trying to do is still to try get better on those things and just continuously preparing for the next tournament,” said Gregorio.
Part of the pool in the Calamba bubble are RJ Abarrientos, Justine Baltazar, Kemark Carino, SJ Belangel, Allyn Bulanadi, Geo Chiu, Isaac Go, Jordan Heading, Dave Ildefonso, William Navarro, Mike and Matt Nieto, Dwight Ramos, Tzaddy Rangel, Rey Suerte, Jaydee Tungcab, Carl Tamayo, naturalized player Ange Kouame, and Thirdy Ravena.
Young big man Kai Sotto has also been reserved a slot, although Gregorio said the SBP is still talking to his management team.
“It’s still a 50-50 chance for us, but we will see,” said Gregorio.