MVP Cup no easy task for Gilas, says Baldwin
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine men’s national basketball team will commence their third tournament ahead of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China when they open their 2015 MVP Cup campaign against the Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters on Friday, September 11, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After a winless campaign during a pocket tournament in Estonia and a silver medal performance in the 37th William Jones Cup, Gilas Pilipinas will take on 3 opponents total in the MVP Cup, with the Wellington Saints from New Zealand and rival Chinese Taipei being the other two teams.
Gilas actually defeated both the Saints and Taipei’s national squad in the Jones Cup, and the Tropang Texters are coming in at a disadvantage as 3 of their best players - Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser - are suiting up for the national team. Factoring all of those together, Head Coach Tab Baldwin’s team is the favorite to win the tourney.
But despite that, the 57-year-old Baldwin still sees the competition they will face as big-time threats.
“Everybody here should not underestimate the quality of the teams in this tournament,” Baldwin said during the press conference for the MVP Cup on Thursday, September 10.
“Yes, Talk ’N Text is a little bit diminished by not having Jayson and Ranidel and Matt there. Well, significantly diminished, but they’re still a good group and they’ll play tough. Coach Jong [Uichico] and Coach Nash [Racela] did a great job preparing them.”
Members of the Wellington Saints were present during the press conference, and Baldwin was complimentary of them.
“This New Zealand team, I almost feel like the Jones Cup was their preparation for this tournament,” he said.
“Because, as Coach Kevin [Braswell] said, they just got together right before the tournament. And this guy sitting down here in front of me (Eric Devendorf), and this guy right next to me (Braswell), you look at their basketball pedigrees, we’re not going to see a backcourt combination like these two guys in this country unless it’s the NBA guys.”
“This is a Georgetown player, this is a Syracuse player,” Baldwin said about Braswell and Devendorf, respectively. “Two high-level programs, and both of these guys were outstanding performers in this programs, and you complement them with some very, very good players around them, and this young team is going to be tough.”
Chinese Taipei’s national squad is no stranger to Gilas. During the 2013 FIBA Asia tournament, they were one of the two teams (Iran) to beat Gilas.
“And of course Taiwan is going to be one of the dark horses in the FIBA Asia,” said Baldwin, “so I think out there in the media, you should really focus on who the opponents of Gilas are in this tournament as well as the Gilas preparations, because this is going to be one hell of a tournament, and it’s not going to be an easy tournament for anybody to win.”
Baldwin also said that Gilas is still not close to their peak performance, and hopes that how they played in their past two tournaments is not indicative of the best they can show on the court.
“We’re nowhere near our peak,” he said. “The question is, how quickly can we get there and will we get there before the tournament, or during the tournament?” – Rappler.com