MANILA, Philippines – New national team head coach Tab Baldwin is not forcing Filipino ballers to be something they are not in order to win medals. Instead, his strategy of choice is to take their strengths and put them on steroids.
“We want pressure basketball,” Baldwin shared on FIBA.com the type of Sinag Pilipinas team he wants to have for the upcoming SEABA Championship and SEA Games. “We want our opponent to commit a lot of mistakes and keep the pressure on offensively."
“I think that suits the nature of Filipinos,” he noted.
Baldwin, who was a former mentor to the New Zealand national team, shared he wants a team that uses speed and clever tactics to outsmart foes and force them into errors. He believes this type of fast-paced basketball is second nature to Filipinos.
“I think that we have to be very dynamic, very quick, and we have to be clever,” he explained. “I think these are some of the strengths of the Filipino players, so I like to believe the offense suits their characteristics.”
The veteran coach and his staff already selected a 16-man pool for the SEABA tournament slated to happen from April 27 to May 1. The event serves as a qualifier for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship happening in China this September.
The pool is made up of spry guards and forwards as well as formidable offensive talents including Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, Rayray Parks, Baser Amer, Earl Scottie Thompson and Jiovani Jalalon, among others. That pool will be trimmed down to 12, which automatically includes naturalized center Marcus Douthit.
The same squad will represent the country in the SEA Games that will take place from June 9 to 15. Both events will be in Singapore.
“We have a lot of quick players. There’s a lot of skill in this group,” Baldwin said of the young cagers. “They can get up and down the floor. They understand the game. They know how to play the game. It’s typical of the Filipino basketball players. It’s no different from what we have in the PBA.”
Baldwin is not dead set on forcing players into entirely different playing styles, but he is eager to give them direction and have them play “within some structure.”
“They play a lot of basketball from the time they’re young, and it shows. And they’re naturally quick and athletic players,” said Baldwin, who, from the moment he was officially named Gilas head coach last December, already lauded the country’s deeply embedded basketball culture.
He said it is an “important distinction” of Philippine basketball and “a very good one.”
“Obviously the weakness is we don’t have enough size. It might be new to me, but it’s not new to the Filipino players and consequently, we all adapt, we use a style of play that we think will best suit the talent that we have.”
While there will be adjustments on the part of players, Baldwin admitted he, too, is stepping out of his comfort zone and learning new things.
Over his past couple of years in the Philippines, Baldwin also previously bared he’d already picked up various playing styles such as aspects of Chot Reyes’ dribble drive system.
“It is a challenge. As a coach, you know, I think it’s very important to adapt yourself to the qualities of your teams rather than to try to make them adapt to you,” he said.
“But that means sometimes you coach out of your comfort zone, so you learn to be comfortable with that particular group of players. So for me, that’s the process I’m going through right now.”
“There are things I would like to do in in the interior which maybe I can’t, so I have to discard those things and find other ways to maximize what these players’ abilities are,” he added. – with reports from Naveen Ganglani/Rappler.com