NATIONAL coach Tab Baldwin on Friday addressed the issue on why Jeron Teng and some other high-profile players from La Salle failed to make the Gilas cadet team bound for two international tournaments.
Baldwin explained that leaving out Teng from the 12-man team bound for the Southeast Asian Basketball Championship and the SEA Games was a difficult decision, but insisted that he based his selections solely on the value of the players and how they can fit into the team he wants.
The veteran coach admitted that the players selected were "ahead of Jeron right now."
“We just didn’t have the numbers, we can only select twelve spots, and there was a lot of competition in the wing position. I just felt that the guys we selected were ahead of Jeron right now,” Baldwin told Spin.ph.
“Jeron did a great job, he is really a good player, and I think he’ll have a great future. And we still want him to be part of the Gilas program. But we just felt the others were ahead of him right now,” he added.
Not a few fans were surprised after less-heralded players like Russel Escoto, Jiovani Jalalon, Almond Vosotros and newcomer Earl Scottie Thompson were chosen ahead of marquee names like Teng, his La Salle teammates Arnold Van Opstal and Prince Rivero and San Beda star Baser Amer.
Also left out was Ateneo second-stringer Thirdy Ravena.
Baldwin was also quick to brush off the notion that Teng and his Archers teammates were not chosen because of their affiliation with San Miguel Corp. since SMB chairman Danding Cojuangco is the La Salle team's main backer.
Baldwin is a coaching consultant with Talk 'N Text, the flagship PBA team of the PLDT group whose big boss, Manny V. Pangilinan, is also the president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
“I don’t even know that thing (San Miguel sponsorship of La Salle). I can’t possible have anything to do with that. That kind of politics is irrelevant to me,” he said.
“It will be horrible, I think, if the national coach is involved in that kind of politics. I care about this team, and I care about just putting the best players on the floor,” he reiterated. “That’s what I am trying to do, form the best team. I am not trying to do anything else!”
Here's a PODCAST of the interview with Tab Baldwin.
Asked if Escoto, Vosotros, Jalalon and Thompson performed better during the tryouts than Teng and Co, Baldwin said: “You’re asking obvious questions now. I already told you.
“If you’re asking (about) Jiovani, he is lightning quick and he is a great defender. He’ll be a bonus having in the team at the guard position. Rusell Escoto maybe the best rebounder we have in the whole environment. He does a great job on the court and he is a developing 4-man. He is not that great yet, but he is the guy who has the physical strength which is important in international games,” he said.
“About Thompson, he is really a good shooter, he is a scorer. He is the guy that can create offense on his own, Kiefer (Ravena) is that kind of player as well. When your system breaks down, you’ll need a player that can get their own offense, Scottie is very good at that,” he said.
But for Baldwin, the priority was to come up with a group of players that complement each other, rather than form a squad based "on the names of the cagers."
“I will never form a team based on some names,” Baldwin said firmly. “I think for me as a coach, it’s not really easy (for players) to get into the Gilas program. You have to perform and to prove yourself to me. If you don’t perform, you’ll gonna be out. It’s not gonna be easy to get back in.”
The American-New Zealander, who rose to fame when he led the New Zealand team to a fourth-place finish in the 2002 world championships, said he did most of his scouting in the D-League.
Baldwin said he talked to Teng and the players left out one by one after announcing his selections.
“My message to Jeron and to AVO, and to Baser and to Thirdy and to Prince was already delivered to them directly, in person. I don’t deliver messages through the media. I spoke to them on the day I selected the team," he said.
“I still look forward to working with team in the near future.”