MANILA, Philippines – As players stepped up in an 81-70 Gilas Pilipinas tune-up game victory over Iran, coach Tab Baldwin and his coaching staff are left in a bind about which names to pick for the final 14-man lineup bound for Europe on Friday, June 10.
Baldwin doused water on heightened anticipation over the lineup announcement Wednesday, June 8, saying the players' performance at the Smart Araneta Coliseum muddled any previous choices and that he and his coaching staff will have to sit down and re-evaluate everything to arrive at a final list.
"We aren't announcing that (lineup). Hate to disappoint everybody. Coaches are going to go to dinner now, we're going to sit down, we're going to make a final decision. We were close to a decision but tonight's game kind of makes us rethink things sometimes," he told the press after the game.
"But that's what we play those games for. One of the things they were designed for was to help us make final decisions. It's a credit to the players that they're making this decision extremely difficult."
The Philippine national men's basketball team is scheduled to leave for a European training camp and pocket tournaments on Friday and will return home on June 28, just days before the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament slated here from July 5 to 10.
Only 14 players will be leaving and from there a 12-man lineup for the tournament will be selected. Baldwin said he also raised the question to management about whether all remaining 15 players in the pool will be allowed to participate in the training camp.
"We anticipate having to make a decision on one player. That's what we're going to go and argue about."
Baldwin confirmed Mo Tautuaa, a backup to naturalized big man Andray Blatche, as well as cadet Kiefer Ravena will not be joining the team in Europe anymore. Though he made clear that marksmen Jeff Chan and Marcio Lassiter, who haven't been practicing due to a groin injury and bronchitis, respectively, are still in consideration.
"We're going to try and make an intelligent decision," Baldwin said. "Right now I think we just feel like we're picking a name out of a hat. It's that tough to make the decision."
Gilas Pilipinas pulled through and avoided a late meltdown, surviving a fourth quarter Iran surge after blowing a 23-point advantage.
Guard Ryan Reyes, who has flown under the radar but is a quiet worker for Gilas since November, caught fire with 12 points, missing only one of his 5 3-point attempts. Reyes, who plays for Tropang TNT, was also +12 in his over 14 minutes on the court.
Cadet Ray Parks was likewise impressive with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal, and a plus/minus of +11 in over 20 minutes.
Japeth Aguilar was perfect from the field (5-of-5) for his 12 points as he went to his mid-range game, while Gabe Norwood proved very effective despite not scoring a point with a +22 plus/minus that Baldwin made sure to acknowledge.
Andray Blatche was the top scorer, with 20 points on top of 11 rebounds and 4 steals.
"If we make a decision tonight I'll notify the player involved and we'll announce it whenever Butch (Antonio, team manager) decides it's best to announce it for you guys, Baldwin said.
"It's a very important event for the players, for the team, but it's a brutal decision for a head coach. It's probably one of the few things in life I'd like to run away from every time I have to confront it but you can't. It's part of the job.
"It's the worst part of the job. I've done it many times and it never gets easy. I've been in tears making this decision before in my career." – Rappler.com