SOMEONE who knows Tab Baldwin well back home has a feeling he will do 'great things' with Gilas Pilipinas.
“I’ve seen him work and he is a national hero back home. He is a great man,” said Kennedy Kereama, who plays for the Perth Shark in the ongoing 1st Philippine-Australia Goodwill Basketball Invitational.
Kereama also happens to be the national women’s basketball team coach of New Zealand, which is vying for a spot in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics.
The 31-year-old New Zealander only has good things to say about Baldwin, the American-New Zealander coach who recently took over as coach of Gilas Pilipinas in the lead-up to next year’s Summer Olympics in Brazil.
Kereama said Baldwin has left an indelible inprint on New Zealand basketball after leading the country to a surprising fourth-place finish in the 2002 Fiba World Cup.
The playing-coach said Baldwin achieved the feat by making the Tall Blacks believe they can beat world-class teams such as Puerto Rico, China, and Russia.
“The amount of belief he instilled in New Zealand was just unbelievable. I think the result in the world championship was just amazing. I certainly believe he can do the same great things with Gilas,” said Kereama.
“We just know each other and as an apprentice coach, I watched coaches like him in training sessions. It’s fair to say that a lot of us back home have learned a lot from some of the great coaches that have come from New Zealand.
“I think it was a smart appointment (for Gilas). He is very astute, very smart, and he will get the best out of your men’s team for sure,” added the Perth player.
Kereama is impressed with that he has seen in Philippine basketball in general.
He said he watched games on television including the ongoing PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series between Purefoods and Talk ‘N Text, where Baldwin is part of the coaching staff as a consultant.
“They play tough. They play with a lot of pride, passion, integrity, and a very physical brand of basketball. You have to be physically and mentally tough to play in the Philippines,” said Kereama.
He was also impressed with the college players they go up against in the invitational tournament.
“You’ve also got a great group of young players in the university systems. It’s definitely a very good sign for your country.”
As for his bid to lead the New Zealand women’s team to the Olympics, Kereama said it will be a difficult task since the team will have to pass through Australia, the world No. 2 as per the latest Fiba rankings.
“We all know that Australia is very tough. They have a lot of talent like Penny Taylor and Lauren Jackson. It’s going to be tough,” said Kereama.