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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Baldwin: Of pocket knives and swords

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THAT 3-0 sweep—two over South Korea—in the just concluded International Basketball Federation Asia Cup Qualifiers third and final window in Clark over the weekend won’t matter much now.

“Our vision is 2023 so we haven’t really achieved that much, we just took a very positive first step,” Gilas Pilipinas Head Coach Tab Baldwin told BusinessMirror on Monday. “I’m not sure if we’re already qualified as a sword, but a pocket knife maybe at this point.”

The Philippines is the main host with Japan and Indonesia as co-hosts of the 2023 Fiba World Cup and as such, Gilas Pilipinas is seeded outright and the very same team that swept Group A of the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers are being honed in earnest for that big event.

But for Baldwin, the journey to 2023 is not only that of a pocket knife getting dipped into more smelted ore to be hammered into a sword, but perhaps, in a gentler fashion, taking several baby steps to achieving an ultimate goal.

“Results are great. There are many ways to evaluate but from the tactical standpoint, we’re still a long way from where we want to be,” Baldwin said. “But I like what I saw.”

Beating South Korea last Wednesday, 81-78, and again last Sunday, 82-77, was sweet, sweet revenge for Gilas that went winless against its archrivals for eight long years.

The 76-51 win over Indonesia last Saturday and those two triumphs over Thailand, 93-61 and 93-69, and Indonesia, 100-75, much earlier in the qualifiers validate this Gilas Pilipinas batch has no other way but up.

Take a look see—Dwight Ramos, Kai Sotto, William Navarro, Sam Josef Belangel, Justine Baltazar, naturalized player Ange Kouame, RJ Abarrientos, Mike Nieto, Jaydee Tungcab, Geo Chiu and Carl Tamayo, along with Jordan Heading, Lebron Lopez and Javier Gomez de Liaño—have started to earn their spurs and, much more, the admiration of millions of Filipino fans.

But next up for these 20-something youngsters who defended the fort without a professional player helping them is a more onerous task—the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade set from June 29 to July 4.

“I don’t have expectations [in Serbia], we are just going to play first a world-class Serbian team. Baldwin said. “I know there’s a gap between our team and their team, but we’re going to go out there and compete.”

The Philippines is bracketed with world No. 5 Serbia (July 1) and No. 19 Dominican Republic (July 2) in Group A action of the OQT where only the champion team earns a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

Gilas a day off at the Quest Hotel in Clark on Monday but will return to training on Tuesday and will play a tune-up match on Wednesday against China, which is also going to the OQT. The Filipinos fly to Serbia on Thursday.

“If we qualify out of that pool [in the OQT], we’re going to face somebody from the other pool which could be Italy, Senegal or Puerto Rico.”

Baldwin reiterated the  that team could be molded into one fearsome fighting sword.

“When you’re talking about the effort standpoint, it was pretty outstanding,” he said. “In a personal standpoint, I think we realized we have good pieces of talented players.”

Words of wisdom from perhaps one of the more, if not the most, tactical mind that ever spread the science of basketball in the country.

Indeed, pocket knives the cadets are for now—but someday soon, Baldwin would be introduced to the balisong and experience the lethal feel these made-in-Batangas fan knives are known for.

Image courtesy of fiba.basketball

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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