Baldwin, Gilas challenged by high expectations in SEAG
MANILA, Philippines – If Filipino hoops fans are far more forgiving against the world, assume no such patience when it comes to Southeast Asia.
Nothing short of a gold medal is expected from coach Tab Baldwin and his Gilas cadets squad as they go to battle once more at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) in Singapore starting June 10.
The understanding that falling short is not an option, Baldwin admits, is the biggest challenge in itself for the team comprised of young collegiate stars and naturalized center Marcus Douthit.
“The challenge is fulfilling expectations,” said the New Zealander coach who was appointed to man the national team last December. “We understand that everybody perceives us to be the class of the competition there and we should win easily.”
The expectations are by no means unfounded. The Philippines has consistently reigned supreme in Southeast Asia basketball, winning a total of 16 golds at the SEA Games and only 1 silver medal since 1977.
More than that, they’ve been known to win by huge margins, which held true at the 2015 SEABA Championship where the same squad defeated all their foes by an average winning margin of 68.4 points.
Not only does Gilas have to win gold, they must also do so dominantly. But that’s one aspect Baldwin prefers not to feel pressure over.
“I’m not really concerned about those kinds of perceptions of how we should win. The important thing is we go there and we treat each opponent with respect,” he explained.
“If we’re able to beat them by 30 points or 40 points then better. We should play the game on that level. And if it’s a close game then we should play the game on its merits and do the best to win. Ultimately at the end of the day we’re expected to win the gold so we’re not looking for anything else.”
Baldwin’s weapons include UAAP MVP Kiefer Ravena, NCAA MVP Scottie Thompson, as well as returning stalwarts in Mac Belo, Kevin Ferrer, Jiovani Jalalon, Glenn Khobuntin, Troy Rosario, Norbert Torres and Almond Vosotros.
The only changes from the SEABA lineup that won gold last April are SEABA scoring leader Ray Parks Jr and Russel Escoto, who were replaced by San Beda standout Baser Amer and De La Salle rookie Prince Rivero.
Parks is in the United States trying his luck in the NBA.
“I think we’re ready. We’ve had 3 months together and the team’s trained well,” Baldwin assessed where the team is at in terms of preparations.
“They’ve worked hard. They’ve got a very good SEAB performance behind them to give them confidence, just hopefully not too much confidence.”
The Gilas cadets leave for Singapore on Saturday, June 6 and Baldwin is set to follow a few days later after wrapping up duties with Talk ’N Text.
The Philippines are in Group A and will first take on Indonesia on June 10, followed by Malaysia and Timor-Leste.
“The SEA Games is a big event on the sporting calendar of the Philippines,” said Baldwin. “We want to do well on all sports. People are counting on a gold from the basketball team so we understand the pressure of that and we wanna go there and fulfill the expectation.” – Rappler.com