ASIDE from having the best talent available for Gilas Pilipinas, national coach Tab Baldwin is also looking forward to getting a little help from the team's so-called ‘sixth man.’
In light of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ bold move to bid for one of three qualifiers for next year’s Rio De Janeiro Olympics, Baldwin expressed confidence the Philippines will get the hosting rights, thereby giving Gilas the opportunity to play before its rabid home crowd.
“Absolutely, I’m optimistic that we will get the hosting,” said Baldwin, who arrived in the country last week following a well-deserved rest in the US following a grueling two months highlighted by Gilas' runner-up finish in the Fiba-Asia Championship in Changsha, China.
The SBP has already submitted its intention to bid for one of the qualifiers last week by paying 20,000 Euros as confirmation fee for the hosting rights.
Aside from the Philippines, other nations which expressed interest in bidding for the hosting of the three tournaments are Mexico, Canada, Italy, Turkey, Russia, Germany and Serbia.
The Fiba will make its decision on November 23.
But the Philippines being the only Asian country which signified intention to stage the July 4-10 tournaments, makes it a logical choice to become one of the hosts, according to Baldwin.
“Only one of those is Asia, only one of those is American. All the rest are Europe. I can’t see them putting two hostings in Europe,” said the Gilas coach. “I could be wrong, but I think that news bodes well for the possibility of us getting the hosting.”
The 57-year-old American from Jacksonville, Florida said playing in front of the most passionate basketball fans in the world is definitely going to be a huge factor in Gilas’ bid to end the country’s 43-year-old Olympic drought.
Then a consultant with the national team, Baldwin saw for himself how the crowd factor worked wonders for Gilas during the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship in Manila in a campaign that saw the Filipinos finish runner-up to Iran to punch a ticket in the Fiba World Cup for the first time in 35 years.
“If we have it here, that’s a leg-up, that’s a little bit of an advantage for us,” said Baldwin. “Certainly it’s not the deciding factor. We still have to go out and play well, but certainly I believe it helps, and we have to capitalize on any single opportunity that we can get.”
Besides, Baldwin believes it’s about time the gargantuan effort being put by SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan for Philippine basketball the past few years, including a failed bid to host the 2019 Fiba World Cup, is finally rewarded.
“I know all the work that MVP has done for the World Cup bid, that has to weigh in favor with Fiba. It staggers the imagination to understand the investment MVP has put into trying to land opportunities for Philippine basketball in the world stage and I really hope and believe that he will be rewarded this time,” he said.