TAB Baldwin indicated the possibility of more young players coming in and taking part in the weekly training of Gilas Pilipinas for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament this July.
The national coach said members of the Gilas cadets have been making valuable contributions to the Monday night practice session at the Moro Lorenzo gym, especially in the face of the spate of injuries bugging several of the players included in the training pool.
Arellano point guard Jiovani Jalalon was the latest inclusion in the growing list of cadets invited by Baldwin’s coaching staff. Among those who came on board earlier were Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Ferrer, Mac Belo, Roger Pogoy, and Russel Escoto.
“I like to see them grow a little bit more,” said Baldwin. “If they have some numbers here and they can rotate themselves well, then that’s gonna help them, and help them help us, so it’s a win-win (situation).”
For the past two weeks, Baldwin has been using the Gilas cadets primarily in trying to defend Gilas members during their five-on-five drills, which saw the quintet of LA Tenorio, Marcio Lassiter, Ranidel de Ocampo, Marc Pingris, and Greg Slaughter going up against Ravena, Ferrer, Belo, Escoto, and Jalalon.
Baldwin likes what he’s been seeing so far and gives the young cadets a lot of credit for it.
“They (cadets) allow us to rotate our Gilas players and they’re doing the hard work on defense and they bring energy to it,” said the 57-year-old American-New Zealander. “And so it forces all of us to work a little bit harder and I think its God-send that they’re here working with us and for us and it can only help us get better.”
Baldwin knows the cadet players too well, having worked with them as coach during the country’s run to the basketball gold medal in last year’s Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.
“In their own right they’re very good players. They’re national team players and they’ve represented the Philippines so we should give them respect, and I think they honor that with the effort that they give,” he said.
Baldwin was quick to acknowledge the contributions right away made by Jalalon in his very first practice with the team.
“He’s too quick for everybody,” he said of Arellano’s do-it-all playmaker. “He’s a great example of forcing the Gilas players to be a little bit sharper than they might be if there wasn’t such tough defense out there because Gio comes after you right away. He doesn’t know another way to play than ultra quick and ultra tough defensively.”
It’s Baldwin who personally selects and then recommends it to his coaching staff the cadet players he wishes to see in every Gilas practice.
“The invitation comes from me, but we would like to extend it a little further,” said the Gilas coach.
Asked if there would be other college players coming in as Gilas practices become extensive in the next few weeks leading to the July 5-10 Olympic qualifier, Baldwin said, ‘Very possible, very possible.’
Gilas however, will have a break in training this Monday in observance of the Holy Week.