By JONAS TERRADO
Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin is hoping that everyone, including the PBA and players suiting up in professional leagues overseas, can be on board for the 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers which begins in November.
Baldwin, also the program director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, believes having the presence of PBA cagers and those abroad should be explored after fielding a mixture of full-time Gilas pool members and collegiate standouts during the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, Olympic Qualifying Tournament and the King Abdullah Cup.
“I think the evolution of the roster is probably the most difficult thing that we’ve faced, and also probably the most exciting thing for our fans to talk about because everything has to be on the table,” Baldwin said following the recent draw ceremony of the World Cup Qualifiers.
“We expect the UAAP and the NCAA to begin again next year so there’s gonna have to be discussions with all stakeholders for all those players involved in the UAAP, the NCAA. The PBA’s gotta come back to the mix and we got to talk again about the potential of (having) PBA players. “And now of course, we have players heading overseas and many of those players are going to have FIBA release clauses in their contract which is gonna allow them the opportunity to come back but on a very, very limited preparation time.
“So it’s really interesting. We have this full-time program with the Gilas draftees, they’re gonna work full time to make themselves a cohesive unit. And then we have these bit players. How are we gonna integrate them? How often do we integrate them? How easy will it be to integrate them?
“So this is a huge task. You know, Coach Ryan (Gregorio, SBP’s special assistant to the president) is lucky because he doesn’t have to worry too much about this one. This is gonna be the coaching staff. But I know he’s gonna be intimately involved because it’s gonna fall on his shoulders to talk to all stakeholders to make sure that these players are gonna be available,” Baldwin added.
Though assured of a slot in the 2023 World Cup as co-host, Gilas will still compete in the qualifiers starting in Group A alongside New Zealand, South Korea and India as part of its buildup for FIBA’s biggest event.
But Gilas is also stacked with competitions for 2022 like Guangzhou Asian Games and the Vietnam Southeast Asian Games which was rescheduled from later this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
PBA players last suited up for Gilas in the first window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Feb. 2020 while there’s been a growing trend of players opting to play professional ball outside of the country, namely Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena, Ray Parks Jr., Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano and Kemark Carino in Japan and Kai Sotto in Australia.