Baldwin observes PH has ‘deeper’ basketball talent pool
MANILA, Philippines – Two years of immersion in Philippine basketball has led Tab Baldwin to believe the basketball-obsessed nation has more depth in talent than any other country he handled over his decades long coaching career.
“The pool of talent is deeper in this country, especially in the guard position,” said the 56-year-old who was named head coach of Gilas Pilipinas just last week. “But the quality of talent is slightly different than [what] you see in other countries.”
The newly appointed coach, who officially begins his 4-year term on January 1, 2015, is no stranger to international basketball as he previously mentored the national teams of New Zealand, Malaysia, Lebanon, and Jordan throughout a career that began in 1988. (READ: Norwood, Lee nothing but praise for defensive-minded Baldwin)
He brought his wealth of experience to the Philippines in 2013, serving as consultant to the men’s national basketball team, and passing on his wisdom and defensive tactics to the players. He also became a consultant to perennial Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) contenders Talk ’N Text.
In the next few months, Baldwin will mine the Filipino talent pool as he forms his own squad set to compete in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in China. More than that, he intends on allocating talent to the rest of the national basketball teams (such as the under-16 and under-18 crews) as well as nurturing young prospects for the future, which includes the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
“I don't necessarily think the team will be revamped or needs to be revamped,” said Baldwin, who admitted no timelines have been specified for the formation of his coaching staff and selection of players.
“But what we hope for is that we have all the players available and we're able to select the highest quality basketball team that we can and that process will be played out over the next several months.”
With the obvious abundance of wingmen, Baldwin is keen on developing Filipino big men. He mentioned how the 6-foot-11 PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, 25, who already showed a glimpse of his deadly potential in the World Cup, needs more exposure on the international level in order to progress. There’s also 7-footer Greg Slaughter to train.
But physical attributes, skills, and talent are just the tip of the iceberg.
The celebrated coach observed how the deeply embedded basketball culture in Filipinos – which has been passed on from one generation to another – plays a significant role in Filipino cagers’ development, including the Fil-foreigners.
“From my observation so far, the way a Philippine basketball player develops is through the culture of basketball in this country,” explained Baldwin, who bared his most pressing goal for Gilas is to qualify and play in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“And of course the Fil-Ams come to this country and I think it's a great thing, from what I've observed, that they've assumed the culture of the Filipino player rather than the Filipino player assuming the culture of an American player. And I think that's an important distinction and a very good one.”
The American-New Zealander coach recognizes that understanding behavior, culture and technicalities as it applies to how the national team can effectively compete is the nucleus of his job.
This means discerning how each player operates and how best to help him improve, which translates to better performances in games.
“Filipino players play with an incredible level confidence – one like I haven't seen in my experience around the world and that is a huge advantage,” said Baldwin, who led the New Zealand national team to a semifinals finish in the 2002 World Cup, and steered Lebanon to the 2010 FIBA Asia Stanković Cup title.
“That has to be tempered with systems that can achieve in international basketball and I think marrying those two concepts is the guts of this job. I think that will be my biggest challenge.” – Rappler.com