Gilas Pilipinas steadily ups intensity at practice

MANILA, Philippines – There were visibly far more warm bodies in practice jerseys once Gilas Pilipinas’ second training session of the year commenced late Monday night, February 22 at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in Ateneo de Manila University. 

The mood was lighter compared to last week when head coach Tab Baldwin had only 11 men to work with as the Philippine national team resumed practice following a two-month break since last year.

“It’s much better,” said a satisfied Baldwin. “We still have a lot sitting on the side but mostly for good reasons.” 

A bit of what's going on at #Gilas practice tonight — Jane Bracher (@janebracher) February 22, 2016

Only Terrence Romeo and Ian Sangalang were not at the gym while Jeff Chan, June Mar Fajardo, Marc Pingris, and Paul Lee watched from the sidelines Monday night. Baldwin said Romeo checked in sick while Chan and Pingris are nursing groin and hip flexor injuries, respecitvely. 

Lee continues to recover from a knee injury while Fajardo, who’s been recovering from knee and recurring foot injuries, would be good to go next Monday barring any aggravation during San Miguel Beer’s PBA games before then. While Sangalang, who hasn’t been attending practice since last year, is now in “open correspondence” with Baldwin as they discuss his future on the Gilas program. 

Baldwin bared his frustration last week with the state of practices where a number of players are constantly unavailable. 

“Very frustrated, but what does that accomplish?” Baldwin said last week. “It’s been consistent absences and lack of participation in practices and a lot of sometimes for good reasons, or reasons we have approved. But it doesn’t help me do my job. 

“I need the compliance of the players to do that. So all I can do is give them a hard message that those that get on the court and work are gonna be the guys I select.”

Terrence Romeo not here too #GilasPilipinas — Jane Bracher (@janebracher) February 22, 2016 

With more bodies on the court and a lot more focused minds, the intensity and energy also hiked up a notch as Gilas buckled down and hit the ground running. 

“Obviously we’ve upped the intensity a little bit this week. I feel much better. This is what I’m hoping for, this is what I’ve asked them to do,” he explained Monday. “These guys want to win. And if they can understand that this is part of the process, I don’t think they have any issues with it at all.” 

Gilas has been working on offensive sets in the first two practices, taking baby steps but making significant progress.

“I don’t think we need to try and get [the intensity] to a crescendo just yet. I think we’ll be satisifed if we can get it to a level where we’re satisifed, and we won’t look to push it beyond that,” Baldwin said as he hopes to take another step forward next week. 

“It needs to go up a little bit from where it was. But in reality the team moved closer to what I wanted and that’s all I asked them to do. Where we go from there, hopefully it’ll be a little more and a little more positive. But it was a good step for us [on Monday night].”

Gilas will be competing for a Rio Olympics slot at the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament hosted in Manila in July. –