GILAS Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin is not underestimating the little-known basketball nations from Europe which the national team will be up against in a pocket tournament in Estonia next week.
The Filipino dribblers are set to embark on trip for a three-day tourney starting August 20 against Iceland, Netherlands, and the host nation.
The three European squads are unranked in the world, have had little exposure in the continental scene in over a decade, playing in countries where football is the No. 1 sport.
But Baldwin, whose squad is ranked 31st in the world, is welcoming the competition their opponents offer — being tall teams that can hit from the perimeter, which can mirror the competition Asian rivals China and Iran bring in the Fiba Asia Championship.
They Said It!
“Estonia Pocket Tournament, it's a good tune up game for the Gilas especially those new Gilas players with the familiarity for the international basketball game. It's a good one for GILAS good luck!" - Casidsid Ahdz Keehnno Rei
“All the teams in the Balkan region are strong. Everybody knows about Lithuania,” the American-Kiwi mentor said, referring to the fourth-ranked basketball nation in the world.
“But a lot of people don’t know about Estonia,” he was quick to add. “They’re very strong and very similar to Lithuania. They’re just a step down from Lithuania, but they’re a tough team.”
Baldwin said Iceland, although playing outside of the European competition over the last fifteen years, is “improving” while Netherlands vies in the second division of the continent.
“There’s some quality for us to play against and it won’t be easy,” Baldwin said.
What makes the overseas trip harder is the travel time, having to return to the country right away in time for their flight to Chinese Taipei for the Jones Cup.
“It’s a very long trip,” Baldwin said. “We’ll be turning around and coming right back afterward.”
“I just feel fortunate that we’re going to get these games,” he added. “It will be good preparation for us.”