IN the short period of time former New Zealand national coach Tab Baldwin has gotten to know Gilas Pilipinas, he is convinced that the Filipinos’ strong bond could serve them well when they begin their quest for a slot in next year’s Fiba World Championships in Spain.
Baldwin is in Manila to assist Gilas national coach Chot Reyes by sharing his wealth of knowledge of the Fiba-Asia men’s championships gained during his spell as a national coach of Lebanon in 2010 and Jordan from 2011 to 2012.
“This (Gilas team) is a very tight unit. I think they’ll fight for one another. They will fight for coach Chot and they will fight for their boss,” Baldwin told Spin.ph on Monday night after joining Gilas’ late-night practice at the Moro Lorenzo gym.
Baldwin, a three-time Coach of the Year awardee in the National Basketball League in New Zealand, said he likes the energy, effort and grit of the national squad, which he feels are vital in a top-level tournament like the Fiba-Asia.
“There’s a lot of effort and determination. They are pretty well prepared mentally. The coaching staff has done a good job scouting Jordan and Chinese Taipei, so I think they are well prepared for those games,” added the 55-year-old Jacksonville, Florida native.
With just two days left before the opening of the Fiba-Asia showpiece, Baldwin said the Filipino players only need to get ready for the physicality of the tournament, since they will be up against seasoned and big opponents.
“Physicality is an issue. They need to go out with a mindset that they are physically tough. But they’re gonna take anything that comes their way and they are gonna give back extra,” said Baldwin.
“But skill-wise and experience, this is one of the better teams in the tournament. They should believe in themselves,” he added.
Baldwin is expected to stay for the duration of the Fiba-Asia men’s tournament from August 1-11 as he helps Gilas in scouting and offering vital information.
Gilas beat Baldwin’s Hawke’s Bay Hawks two straight times during its 10-day trip to New Zealand two weeks ago as part of its preparation for the Fiba-Asia tournament, where the top three teams will earn slots to next year’s Fiba World Championship in Spain.