COACH Tab Baldwin assured that Gilas Pilipinas will not be intimidated by the star-studded opposition bannered by several NBA stars that the team will face in the coming Olympic Qualifying Tournament set in Manila from July 5-10.
Gilas opens its campaign for a slot in the Rio Olympics against France, which has six NBA players in its lineup namely, Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert, and Joffrey Lauvergne.
Parker, Diaw, Batum, and Gobert are all part of the French team’ starting unit.
But Baldwin remains undeterred, saying the Philippines won't just roll over and surrender against these fancied teams and he believes Gilas has as much chance of winning the tournament as any of the other five countries coming over.
“We don’t for one second think that this is France’s tournament, or Turkey’s tournament, or Canada’s tournament,” said Baldwin at the end of Gilas’ Monday night session at the Moro Lorenzo gym.
“They have to go through us, surround us. They have to do one of those because we’re not gonna move out of the way. We’re not gonna stand in front of them to lose. So when that time comes, we’ll take our chance and we’ll play as hard as we can,” he added.
Asked how he likes Gilas chances in the qualifier, Baldwin said the Filipinos have a ‘fighting chance.’
“We’re in the ring, and it’s hard to get there,” he stressed. “We’re happy that we're there, and we’re proud that we're there.”
The American-New Zealander said he’s now in the process of studying and scouting some of Gilas' opponents, specifically France and New Zealand, based on available footage.
Baldwin mentioned deputy coach Josh Reyes already sent him clips and tapes of the Frenchmen’s 2015 campaign in the Eurobasket, as well as Gilas outing against the same team – sans Parker – in 2014 while the team was preparing for the Fiba World Cup in Spain.
“So these are the things we start to get a little bit more deeply. I love it. It gives me the chance to sit down and watch my opponent and become intimate with them,” said the 57-year-old Baldwin.
“That’s exactly what I want to do, then I could help the players better to prepare themselves for those games,” he added.
Although he’s been part of New Zealand team before as coach and even steered the Tall Blacks to a historic semifinal appearance in the 2002 Fiba World Cup in Indianapolis, Baldwin said he still needs to see them to update what he knows about the young New Zealand squad.
“I know most of the guys, I know the coaches very well. But I have to see their games, their style of play, and see how these players have developed over the last couple of years when I haven’t seen them,” he said.
“There’s plenty of work to do but we have lots of time for them,” Baldwin ended.