NATIONAL coach Tab Baldwin has only good things to say the first time he laid eyes on AJ Edu.
"He's a talent, there's no question about it," Baldwin said, a day after seeing the 16-year-old Filipino-Nigerian in action in a scrimmage with the Ateneo Blue Eagles at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center.
Edu, a 6-foot-8 prospect born in Cyprus and now residing in the United Kingdom, arrived with Filipina mom Josie last Tuesday night to talk about the possibility of suiting up for future national teams beginning with Batang Gilas.
The lanky Fil-Nigerian immediately plunged into practice with Ateneo the next day, giving Baldwin a first-hand look at a young man that has long been attracting attention from Filipino basketball fans in social media sites.
While no doubt impressed with the kid's upside, Baldwin was quick to warn about the burden of heightened expectations for prospects like Edu.
"He's tall, he's long, he moves extremely well for a big young kid. He seems to be a very, very nice young man. He's very Filipino in his attitude and habits and he's respectful, soft-spoken," said the Gilas coach.
"But you know, he's 16 years old and we should be protecting the kid instead of overexposing him."
The American-New Zealander said it's only natural for fans to get excited about prized finds like Edu, but cautioned that it will take a long process for the kid to become the player that Gilas needs.
"Honestly, we're putting the cart before the horse here. They're kids," said Baldwin when asked about the excitement generated by kids like Edu and 14-year-old Kai Sotto.
"My position again is I think we should protect these kids. Throwing them infront of the public and throwing them out there, I don't agree with that. That's how we create entitlement issues with kids, that's how we spoil kids.
"And I'm thankful that AJ looks to be very conservative and it looks like he has very conservative parents who have his best interest as a young man - not as a basketball player - first.
"And I applaud that, I think that's the way it should all be."