Baldwin explains why Manuel, Yap aren’t fit for Gilas Pilipinas

MANILA, Philippines – Being good in the PBA does not necessarily equate to being fit for the national team.

That’s one way head coach Tab Baldwin approaches picking players to make up Philippine national team Gilas Pilipinas. His decades of international coaching experience shaped a particular sensibility to the types of players and the kind of team that will do well on the global stage. 

During an insightful Facebook Live interview with Rappler, Baldwin addressed fans who asked why guys like Star’s James Yap and Alaska’s Vic Manuel might not be suitable for Gilas. 

“Let me talk about Vic Manuel for a second,” started Baldwin. “Vic Manuel is one of my favorite PBA players. We talked about Calvin being really a 4-man or a power forward in a 6-foot-1 body coming into the international game, but he was so adaptable that we were able to successfully move him to the small forward position and get a lot of productivity out of him.”

“Vic is absolutely a 4-man. Vic is a power forward and he’s in a 6-foot-3 man’s body,” he explained. “I don’t think there’s two or 3 PBA players I like better than Vic and that I would want on my team – but on my PBA team. Internationally, simply too small, especially when we’re talking Olympic Qualifiers, Olympics World Championships.” 

Manuel, 28, had a breakout conference in the 2016 Philippine Cup where he normed 15.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists as he helped Alaska reach the finals for the third time in the last 4 conferences. He also tied his career-high 24 points in Game 1 of the finals. 

His performance, his grind-it-out style, and the boundless energy that complements that of teammate Calvin Abueva catapulted him to a favorite to become part of the Gilas pool, which is gearing up for the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. 

Even if Manuel is too small for his position to play internationally, Baldwin is not closing the door on the 2012 first round draft pick.

“Maybe at the Asian level, there might be some room for him in the future,” the coach said. “Again, I just can’t speak more highly of a player. I love the way he plays the game, I love his toughness. He embodies everything I want in a player – just too short.” 

In the case of two-time PBA MVP Yap, Baldwin gathered that though he competed for the national team and even won a gold medal in the 2003 SEA Games, the 34-year-old is still better suited for the pro league. 

“I think that James has been out of international basketball for quite some time. And frankly, the quality of player he is – and this happens in all leagues around the world – he’s more suited to be a PBA player than an international player,” he explained of the 7-time PBA champion and Grand Slam title holder. 

“And it would probably take me a day to go through the reasons and explain all the nuances of why that is true. I think James recognizes that, our coaching staff certainly recognizes that. 

“While he’s certainly been a very effective PBA player, the type of player that he is is not that adaptable to the international game and particulary to the types of systems that we will run.” 

The current Gilas pool is composed of players who can play multiple positions and move well all around the floor. It’s also why it’s common to see Gilas big men stretch out to the wing.

“Size is very, very important when you go up against the Europeans and the Americans. And for that matter now the Oceania teams and the African teams. It’s not more critical in the Asian zone. It’s becoming more critical but it hasn’t been so critical,” he explained. 

“Not just size. There are other qualities and factors that also make some players better suited to the international game and some players not so well-suited.”  –