TAB Baldwin welcomed the availability of what he believes is the best available talent for Gilas Pilipinas given the quality of competition awaiting the national team in next year’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Now if he can only have naturalized player Andray Blatche and potential national team player Jordan Clarkson with the team.
Unfortunately, the Gilas mentor could only talk about the case of Blatche at the moment as Clarkson’s situation remains hanging in the balance.
“We don’t know the status of Jordan’s inclusion. But we expect Andray to be there. We expect him to continue become a part of the program,” said Baldwin prior to the start of the PBA 41st season opening ceremony.
“Jordan is still up in the air as far as I know.”
Baldwin was in the US for a well-deserved rest when the PBA board relented to the request of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to make 17 players available to the Gilas national pool from which the 12-man roster for next year’s Olympic qualifier will be culled.
The 57-year-old American-New Zealander appreciated the gesture of the league board, stressing the team will need the best talent it can have especially playing against some of the best basketball squads in the world.
“It’s the toughest tournament that can ever be assembled because it has so few teams, so few games. And the opportunities to progress, you have to be at your best right from the start,” he said.
“If we do another Palestine, we’ll be out,” added Baldwin, referring to Gilas stunning 77-75 loss to Palestine to start its campaign in the recent Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship. “We have to avoid that, we have to be at our best from the start.”
Ranged against the best in the world during last year’s Fiba World Cup, Gilas proved it can be at par with basketball powers from Croatia, Greece, Argentina, and Puerto Rico by playing competitive against them.
But Baldwin said the Filipinos need to be more than just competitive this time.
“Yes, we’re competitive in Spain and that’s a testament to what we can achieve, what we can aspire to,” said the Gilas coach who arrived in the country from the US last week. “But we can no longer go to where we want to be by just being competitive. We got to win.”
Nonetheless allowing the 17 players to be included in the national pool could be the start of what Baldwin has been projecting for Philippine basketball since he first took over the Gilas job at the start of the year.
“It’s a great sign for Philippine basketball and the fans. It looks like we’ll be able to tap in to the quality of talent we have in the country.
“It seems everybody in the sport is gonna support the national team and the national program. We do appreciate the support and we wanna honor that by working hard and doing the best that we can,” he stressed.