MANILA, Philippines – With the 2015 FIBA-Asia Championship set to take place in 3 months, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin has already started talking to team owners in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) about borrowing players he could include in his initial 26-man pool.
The meetings have gone well, Baldwin told Rappler on Friday, June 19. “I’ve spoken to most of the team owners and generally it’s very positive,” he said. “I can’t get into the specifics of it. It’s up to the PBA to get to the specifics. From my standpoint, [they’ve been] very positive.”
Baldwin did say that the pool composition will have many holdovers from the Gilas teams that have competed internationally over the past two years.
The Gilas roster that competed in the 2014 Asian Games - the recent tournament where PBA players represented the national team - had Jimmy Alapag (now retired), LA Tenorio, Paul Lee, Gary David, Jared Dillinger, Gabe Norwood, Ranidel De Ocampo, Marc Pingris, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, and naturalized Filipino Marcus Douthit.
“The veteran Gilas players are in large part represented in the pool,” Baldwin said. “I think everybody will be shocked if the answer to that is no.”
When asked if new, younger faces will be in the national team for the FIBA-Asia Championship - such as amateur players who played for the Gilas Cadets in the SEABA and SEA Games - Baldwin did not close the door on the possibility.
“We have some good young talent and I’m the kind of coach who likes to expose young talent to high caliber competition for the future,” said the 57-year-old who also added that Gilas practices would begin a week after the PBA Governors’ Cup finishes.
That little time in between the end of the season and Gilas training sessions has been a hot topic of late, as some observers have mentioned that the PBA should shorten its playing calendar to give members of the national team more time to practice and, more importantly, recuperate from injuries.
Recently, Alaska Aces team owner Wilfred Uytengsu said he would support the PBA shifting back to a two-conference format to better prepare Gilas players for international play.
“In general, I would support that, because for a lot of reasons,” Baldwin said about Uytengsu’s idea. “I think PBA players lack the opportunity to have an offseason to develop, rehabilitate, and work on fitness and conditioning.”
He continued, “I understand the commercial aspects to 3 conferences as opposed to two and all that sort of things, but I think that there’s a bigger discussion that’s going to take place because of the change and the format - the qualification format - of FIBA for the 2019 [World Cup].”
Rather than using the results of continental championships to determine who makes the World Cup, FIBA will use two rounds of continental qualifying tournaments that span over two years to determine the 32 teams that will compete in the 2019 World Cup.
FIBA Africa gets 5 berths, FIBA Americas get 7, FIBA Europe gets 12, while FIBA Asia and FIBA Oceania together get 7 berths. The remaining one goes to the host nation - which is currently a two-country race between China and Philippines.
“The format changes entirely, and that has been discussed, but there’s a lot more discussion that needs to go into what the PBA is going to do, what the SBP is going to do, so big question marks about that and I think that’s an area for you guys in the media to really sink your teeth into - is what’s going to happen in the qualification for 2019 because there’s big stories that something’s gotta happen.”