JONG Uichico wasn’t part of the Gilas coaching staff that deliberated and decided on who would make the final 12 of the Philippine team competing in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
But having worked with Tab Baldwin for the longest time as one the three deputies of the 58-year-old American-New Zealander, the soft-spoken veteran mentor said he’s hardly surprised with the kind of lineup Baldwin had assembled for the July 5-10 tournament in Manila.
“Not naman,” said Uichico when asked if he was amused about Gilas Pilipinas’ unpopular decision to leave Calvin Abueva and LA Tenorio out of the 12-man loop.
“They know the players they need in certain situations. We really don’t know if it’s Troy (Rosario) or Calvin, or certain player for this player,” he added. “It’s the total team concept why the coaching staff came up with the final 12.”
Uichico is one of Baldwin’s top three deputies at Gilas Pilipinas, along with Norman Black and Alex Compton. But his duties as head coach of Tropang TNT that is in the midst of serious preparations for the coming PBA Governors Cup had forced him to stay behind and not accompany the team in its three-week training camp in Europe.
The players’ performance in the nine-day camp in the mountains of Kapernisi, Greece, and later, in actual games against Turkey and Italy, became the major basis for the selection of the 12 players who will comprise the team.
Knowing the camaraderie and bonding the team has developed since it began practicing as one as early as November last year, Uichico knew how agonizing the process was of leaving two players behind.
“It’s a very hard, it’s a tough decision to make. But we support the team, fully support the coaching staff,” he said.
“It’s a collective decision, and not done by just a single person.”
From a coaches’ point of view, Uichico said he likes the composition of this Gilas team that is out to end the country’s 44-year drought in the Olympics.
“In general, team concept Ok naman yung roster, we’re very flexible,” he said.