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    Baldwin slams 'criminal' Fiba eligibility rule as Gilas eyes more talent for 2023

    Jun 12, 2020
    PHOTO: Jerome Ascaño

    IF you're gonna dream, dream big.

    And there's no doubt in Tab Baldwin's mind that if the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) stays the course, Gilas Pilipinas can position itself as a top team in international basketball.

    So much so that he sees the national team making it to the second round in the 2023 Fiba World Cup here, and can position itself to be one of the contenders for the edition of the global hoops conclave in 2027.

    "I think that in 2023, we want to be a team that makes a very, very strong run at a second-round bid and I think even achieves that. And by 2027, I think we want to see a team that has aspirations to be in the medal round," he told Coaches Unfiltered.

    There's really nowhere for the Philippines to go but up after suffering a winless run through five games in China in 2019 and ranking dead last among 32 teams.

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    But as shiny as those goals are, Baldwin made it a point to acknowledge that there will be lots of trials along the way.

    "One of the most fundamental ingredients to a successful national team is experience at the international level. And this group of players will have almost none of that," he said.

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    "So it's going to be painful before it's productive, I can tell you that. Now, if we're looking at potential, and potential is just a dirty word that means they haven't done anything yet. So we don't want to get too caught up in the word potential either. And yet, that's what we really have to talk about. So, when we look at talent, when we look at players that, through their personal demographics, have some potential to be competitive with international caliber players. So yes, I think that we have some promising size, some promising athleticism, and we will always develop some very good skilled guards."

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    So far, the Gilas Pilipinas pool is composed of Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Allyn Bulanadi, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto, all of whom have entered through the special Gilas round of the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft.

    Thirdy Ravena and Jaydee Tungcab were soon added, while the SBP is looking at guys like Kobe Paras, Dwight Ramos, brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano, Justine Baltazar, and even United States-based studs Kai Sotto and AJ Edu, among others, as future additions to the pool.

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    It's not limited to that, with Baldwin also eyeing to unearth talents overseas like how the Gilas Youth team was able to discover Italy-based point guard Dalph Panopio.

    "I think that this is a kid that's an example of what we can find overseas and hopefully, we find more," he said.

    That, however, also means that the SBP must continue to abide by the Fiba ruling requiring players to acquire a passport by the age of 16 -- the so-called "Hagop rule," named after Fiba executive director Hagop Khajirian who pushed for the law.

    That's no matter how terrible Baldwin, like other nations, feels towards this provision.

    "We have to continue to work at the Hagop rule as well," he said.

    The "Hagop rule" has prevented players like Christian Standhardinger, Stanley Pringle, Mo Tautuaa, and Chris Ross from playing for Gilas as locals under Fiba-sanctioned competitions.

    "[However, it] will broaden our pool significantly if we can get rid of this Fiba rule that says you're not a Filipino unless Fiba says you're a Filipino, which I think is a human rights violation. I think it's criminal. And doesn't make me a friend of Fiba when I express my opinions about that. Nonetheless, I think there are bigger things that exist on this planet than Fiba and the right to play basketball because you got a passport before you were 16. So these are all battles that we need to continue to fight and challenges that we need to continue to confront, and they all will impact the the pool, the content of the pool in three years time."

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      If everything falls into place, though, the rewards will be astonishing.

      After all, nothing really comes easy if you're striving for excellence.

      "I think that the short-term is going to be painful while we try to get these players international experience. I think that we're going to suffer setbacks. And I think that's going to be an amazing period of growth and if we can stay focused on that and not lose sight of where we're headed, then I think we'll get there," said Baldwin.

      "And I think that if we say that now with some realistic viewpoint, if we work towards that, and if we have integrity to that goal and objective, then I think we can speak this thing into reality with hard work and clever decision making."
      ___

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      PHOTO: Jerome Ascaño
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