FORMER New Zealand national coach Tab Baldwin said Gilas Pilipinas will have to be mentally tough and learn to take advantage of its speed if it expects to have a respectable showing in next month’s Fiba-World Cup in Spain.
The man credited for guiding New Zealand to a semifinal finish during the 2002 Fiba-World Cup in Indianapolis, USA, maintains opponents will undoubtedly be bigger, stronger, and faster compared to the ones the national team had faced in the past.
“We will be facing much bigger and stronger opponents than the players are used to in the Asian zone, so there will be some tactical issues to look at in terms of adjustments. But primarily, the adjustments will be mental,” Baldwin told Spin.ph two days into Gilas-Pilipinas’ training camp in Miami, Florida.
“In international ball, particularly at the defensive end, you have to stay involved in the play every moment,” said the 56-year-old Baldwin, the all-time most successful coach in New Zealand’s National Basketball League and now a consultant at Gilas.
“You can't lose concentration on what is happening with your man or the ball, and the team must work as a unit all of the time or these high-quality players will expose weaknesses very quickly.”
Baldwin said the upside for the Filipinos is their speed, because though the Filipinos are likely going to be the shortest team in the tournament, they have the quickness to counter the size of their opponents.
“Size is a big issue for us. How do we counter mismatches in the post and in rebounding? But, on the other hand, we will be working on forcing our opponents to deal with our speed and skill so the ax swings both ways,” said the three-time NBL Coach of the Year.
At the moment, Baldwin said Gilas can’t be too focused on getting two wins in the World Cup. Instead, what he encourages the players to do is work on the mental side of the game and be physically and tactically prepared for the tough grind.
“I don't believe that thinking of the second round is a wise line of thinking for anyone,” he said. “The mountain is so steep that if you don't keep your eyes focused on the next step, you will likely make a fatal mistake along the way.
"So we have to build a great chemistry over the next month and then worry about Croatia and take each game on its own merits and leave the last result, positive or negative, behind us.”
Baldwin said the plan is for him to stay with Gilas and help the national squad through the Asian Games in September, where host South Korea, will be a team to contend with.
Gilas joins powerhouse Argentina, Greece, Croatia, Puerto Rico, and Senegal in Group B of the Fiba-World Cup, which kicks off in different cities in Spain on August 30.