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MANILA, Philippines – In just the second week of practice, it’s becoming clearer what the biggest challenge for Gilas Pilipinas will be in the coming months: player schedules.
The Philippine national men’s basketball team may practice once a week throughout the PBA’s 41st season but that does not necessarily guarantee perfect attendance all the time. (READ: Weekly Gilas practices are better than nothing, says Baldwin)
Only 9 players were in training jerseys Monday night, November 16 as Gilas 4.0 convened for the second time at the Meralco Gym. Eight Gilas pool members were joined by reserve naturalized bigman Moala Tautuaa, whom head coach Tab Baldwin asked to participate as back-up to primary naturalized center Andray Blatche.
Barangay Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, and LA Tenorio were present but sat out practice to rest coming off a PBA game Sunday, November 15, and in preparation for another out-of-town match on Tuesday, November 17 in Laguna.
“That was pre-arranged. We knew that the boys would sit tonight and just watch. For them it was a mental practice only,” Baldwin said.
“San Miguel players played last night so it was optional for them to go in any live drills but we did not have any live drills so that’s why you saw Marcio (Lassiter) out there,” the American-Kiwi mentor added.
Rain or Shine gunner Jeff Chan was also in attendance but in street clothes to rest his right ankle tendon that’s been hurting for 4 days already. While Paul Lee and Ranidel De Ocampo continue to recover from knee and back injuries, respectively. Chan’s Rain or Shine teammate Lee has been present for both Gilas practices so far.
Third year slotman Ian Sangalang of the Star Hotshots was sick and unable to show up as well.
Meanwhile, big men June Mar Fajardo and Marc Pingris likewise skipped practice as it clashed with a commercial shoot for San Miguel. Baldwin was not pleased with it but let it pass – though not without fair notice for the entire team. (READ: Baldwin wants Fajardo, Slaughter size, but also Gilas speed)
“I couldn’t do anything about that but I tried and I wanted to but it was pre-organized and it would’ve inconvenienced a lot of people besides Marc and June Mar so I allowed that to slip,” Baldwin explained. “But I made it very clear that Monday nights are out of bounds for any other activites other than this from now on.”
On the other hand, Calvin Abueva’s motor keeps running as he joined practice for the first time after missing last week’s session coming off a two-game PBA schedule with Alaska in Dubai. The 27-year old looked energized all night as incessantly rose high to the rim for dunks and eagerly participated in light offensive drills.
Incomplete practices are something Baldwin and the coaching staff expected from the start, knowing the players’ priorities – both physically and mentally – lie with their respective ballclubs.
“Certainly in most of our practices you’ll probably see some of the guys over here in street clothes because of their PBA schedule. And we knew that was going to be the case,” Baldwin said.
Similar to day one, Monday night’s training consisted more of run-throughs, teaching sessions, and discussions with modest drills in between.
“We’re just trying to teach some offensive stuff right now. We want to drill down into the detail as much as we can so that’s why we stop and we talk,” explained Baldwin, who at one point halted a drill to urge players to constantly communicate on the floor.
“Start building habits every time we meet!” Baldwin called out to his team. He never let a drill commence with silent players after that.
“I told them these practices can be boring for them but the only one this should be boring for is me, because they’re doing things perfectly,” Baldwin remarked.
“And if they’re not doing things perfectly, they’ll get bored because we’ll do the same drill over and over and over until hell freezes over. I don’t care. Until I become bored, they need to work to become perfect at the drill.”