By JONAS TERRADO
Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin said facing New Zealand, South Korea and India will present different challenges in the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Despite already assured of a spot in FIBA’s centerpiece event, Gilas is still going to take part in the Asian Qualifiers and was drawn in Group A together with Baldwin’s former team in the Kiwis, an old foe in the South Koreans and Indian side that could pull off some surprises.
“I guess the initial reaction is we’re gonna be excited having the opportunity to play New Zealand. I’ve never been to India and that will be very exciting,” Baldwin said in a TV interview following the draw ceremony held Tuesday, Aug. 31 in Mies, Switzerland.
“And then, of course, our old foes in Korea and I think Korea will be waiting for us, so it should be a great experience. And obviously, we have a lot of preparation to do to get ready for this,” added Baldwin.
Even if the draw favored Gilas since it avoided the prospect of possibly facing the likes of Australia, China or Japan, Baldwin said all teams are expected to give Gilas a run for its money as it uses the qualifiers to prepare for 2023.
“New Zealand is very different than Korea. They have faced one another as we have faced Korea but I think with New Zealand, there’s not so much familiarity,” Baldwin observed.
“But they’re a very tough, very physical team and we know that Korea’s very tough and physical. And I think the Philippine fans will be very quickly thumbing through the books trying to find out the book on India as well and they’ll find that India has a lot of talent, lot of size, not just a lot of international experience.
“So each team does team present something different. They come from different parts of the world and I believe our scouting’s gonna be on point. We gotta be ready and we gotta be ready to dance wherever our opponent is, whichever rosters come from these teams and put our best roster out there.”
The Philippines haven’t faced New Zealand since falling short with naturalized player Andray Blatche and PBA cagers in the 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament while it is fresh from beating South Korea twice in this year’s third window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
Gilas last met India in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China.