SIX weeks into its weekly practice for next year’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin is far more satisfied with the way things are going for the national team.
“The numbers aren’t good. The overall assessment of the Monday night program after six training sessions is not good,” said Baldwin when mediamen asked him how practice has been going the past one and a-half-months.
The PBA lent its best players to Gilas and, in cooperation with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), made them available for Monday-only practices in the months leading up to the Olympic wildcard qualifier in July.
But save for the first-ever training session last November 29, Gilas has not had a full complement of players for the weekly practices.
Just to have warm bodies in training, Gilas opted to tap the services of TnT rookie Mo Tautuaa earlier, and just recently, college star players Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Ferrer.
Mac Belo is also set to join the practices in January.
In its last practice session for the year, at least five pool members were not around in Terrence Romeo, Japeth Aguilar, LA Tenorio, Marcio Lassiter, and Ian Sangalang.
Big man Greg Slaughter, Paul Lee, and Calvin Abueva showed up in street clothes and didn’t participate in the drills.
“The question is, are we going forward, or are we going backward?” Baldwin asked. “My assessment is maybe we’re inching forward. I know that’s not what it was designed to be in the beginning, but I think that’s what’s turning out to be.”
But the national coach isn’t complaining. He knows he can’t have the complete attention of the players in the training pool right now, with the Olympic qualifier still a good seven months away, and the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup game entering its playoff phase a week from now.
At the same time, the 57-year-old Baldwin said the players’ health is also a concern for him, well aware any injury or harm they may suffer while practicing with Gilas could affect their mother ballclubs.
“We could have foreseen some of these things, but until you actually go through, you don’t really know the overall effect,” Baldwin pointed out.
Still, the Gilas coach would like to see things in a positive way, especially with the year about to end, and a new one about to start.
“My thinking going forward is we got to try and make sure that we’re taking some steps forward, irrespective of how small they might be. We just can't afford to go backwards,” he said.
“It’s gonna be an exercise to do that. But that’s what we are right now. After the New Year, we’ll get this thing going again and see how it looks then.”