Although the 2023 FIBA World Cup is still two years away from being co-hosted by the Philippines, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin is already hard at work in determining the best roster possible to represent the country.
Minutes after the Asian qualifiers draw that saw Gilas get grouped with New Zealand, South Korea, and India, the decorated Olympian tactician already laid out the possibilities on who can join, and the difficulties in integrating such players.
“I think that the evolution of the roster is probably the most difficult thing that we face, and also probably one of the most exciting things for our fans to talk about, because everything has to be on the table,” he said.
“There’s going to be UAAP and NCAA next year, so there’s going to be discussions with all the stakeholders for all of those involved,” he continued. “The PBA has got to come back again in the mix, we got to talk about potential PBA players.”
For the last few windows of FIBA competition, including the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Baldwin has committed to an all-cadet group led by young studs like Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, Kai Sotto, and naturalized big man Ange Kouame.
The high-potential squad has predictably seen its ups and downs, but it remains to be seen whether or not Baldwin will stick to overseeing its exclusive development straight into 2023.
“Now of course, we have players heading overseas. And many of those players are going to have FIBA release clauses in their contract, which is going to allow them the opportunity to come back, but on a very, very limited preparation time,” he said.
Sotto, still touted as a future NBA draft pick, will have his hands full in the Australian NBL with the Adelaide 36ers.
Ramos, Kouame, and Baltazar are still expected to play out their UAAP eligibility while other stars like Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño, Kemark Cariño, and Ray Parks will ply their craft in the Japan B. League.
“It’s really interesting. We have this full time program. They’re going to be working full time to build themselves into a cohesive unit, and we’re going to have these players,” Baldwin said.
“How do we integrate them? How often do we integrate them? And how easy will it be to integrate them? So this is a huge task.”
Fortunately for Gilas, there is time and opportunities to mix and match rosters using the host nation’s privilege of automatic World Cup qualification.
However, as Baldwin explicitly stated, nothing will come easy, and that spot will have to be honestly earned in due time. – Rappler.com