The PBA Philippine Cup is about to come to an end, and the good news is that Gilas Pilipinas can resume preparations for a Fiba Olympic Qualifing Tournament which the country will host in July.
Now the bad news.
Gilas only has a small window prior to the start of the midseason Commissioner's Cup on February 10 and, worse, the 17-man pool loaned to the national team by the pro league has beed hard-hit by injuries to San Miguel's June Mar Fajardo, Rain or Shine's Paul Lee, and TNT's Ranidel de Ocampo.
Availability of players has in fact become a problem that national coach Tab Baldwin is looking to widen his pool of players by inviting mostly non-PBA players to join the Gilas practices.
“Possibly, we may look at bringing in some cadets. Again, it all goes down to what are we gonna get out of the players once we start practicing again, if we still see four, five, six guys or more sitting there on the sidelines,” said Baldwin.
“I don’t know what the answer to that (availability of players) is, the PBA schedule kinda dictates. According to our policies, we are not gonna ask players to practice the day before and the day after the game,” added the veteran internationalist.
“We’re a little bit caught in the crosshairs by the PBA schedule, but we have to do the best that we can. But if we want quality training sessions, we may need some more bodies in there and that will probably come from the cadet,” he said.
Baldwin has already invited pro-bound Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Ferrer to join Gilas practices, but admitted bringing in former national players Bobby Ray Parks and Kobe Paras will be close to impossible as both have commitments abroad.
“Bobby Ray has indicated that he is still determined to pursue the NBA D-League option and that will keep him busy over there. Kobe Paras is not available, he’s with UCLA and there’s no opportunity to take him out of the university program,” he said.
“So we’re limited to the players we have here in the Philippines,” he added.
Meanwhile, Baldwin is also open to joining tune-up tournaments and training camps overseas as part of the buildup for the qualifiers or, better yet, a pocket tournament where top teams can come over.
However, he warned that conflicts in places like Turkey as well as the result of the Olympic draw will dictate how those plans pan out.
“I expect that we will be having some overseas camp or campaign or some games. But again, we’ve held off that aspect of the program, until we know who we’re playing here against in the qualifiers,” he said.
“But we’ll have to travel to get some quality games, I am hopeful now that teams would want to come here in the Philippines. I do have some (countries on our list). But there’s things going on in the world right today, terrorists and all, you have to take that seriously,” he said.
“Istanbul (Turkey) would have been one of the places we would want to explore, and there are still some places we want to look at. But when you see what’s going on there and some other places, we have to keep those things in mind,” Baldwin added.
But the best option now for Baldwin is to lure other countries to come over to the Philippines for a series of games.
“That would be the best and we will try to attract some teams here for some preparation games, but with two venues chosen to be in Europe, most of the teams would probably want to stay over there unless they have come to the Philippines to play, then they want to have some preparation games here or a pocket tournament. We don’t know yet,” he said.
Baldwin is also open to talking to the Chinese national team for possible pick-up games.
“I haven’t approached them yet but that’s possible, because they would certainly be good quality competition for us, they play European style of ball. Now, that’s possibility,” he said.
Listen to interview with Tab Baldwin: