Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin said that his wards must play intelligently and level up to the quality of European basketball if it hopes to have a successful campaign in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament slated on July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“There is a large gap between European and Asian basketball, so we have to play intelligently,” Baldwin told The Manila Times during a phone interview on Wednesday. “We have to execute the game wisely.”
Baldwin explained that Gilas experienced the huge disparity between the European and Asian styles of basketball during its 21-day training camp and tune-up games. He added that the final 12 players of the team were selected based on their performance during the team’s games against Canada, Italy and China in a pocket tournament in Bologna, Italy. Gilas also played against the Turkish national squad in a tune-up match.
“You can look at the last NBA [National Basketball Association] draft where 26 European players were drafted. You can see the difference of players in terms of size, height and of course talent,” he added. “You guys have to make an investigation why European basketball is better than us in Asia.”
Host Philippines is bracketed with New Zealand, Canada, Turkey, Senegal and France in the Manila qualifying tourney. Italy and Serbia will also simultaneously hold the same qualifying meets. Only the champion team in three qualifiers will go to the Rio Olympics in August.
“We have to play smarter, intelligently against those European teams. We have to play with a lot of heart and discipline. We are trying to close the gap, but unfortunately it is hard. There’s no absolute margin of error if we really wanted to win,” said Baldwin.
Baldwin also explained that the exclusion of point guard LA Tenorio of Ginebra and Philippine Cup Best Player of the Conference Calvin Abueva of Alaska has something to do with their opponents’ sheer size and height.
“There’s no reserve list on this, but if someone gets injured we can tap any players in the 24-man line-up submitted to FIBA. Our opponent is taller and bigger that’s why we considered anything that would make the team cohesive and better as a unit. We are not relying on individual talent here,” said Baldwin.
The 12-man Gilas lineup is composed of Bobby Ray Parks, guard Jeff Chan of Rain or Shine, combo guard Terrence Romeo of GlobalPort, guard Ryan Reyes of Talk ‘N Text, guard Jayson Castro of Talk ‘N Text, forward Ranidel De Ocampo of Talk ‘N Text, forward Troy Rosario of Talk ‘N Text, center June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer, Jean Marc Pingris of Star Hotshots, Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine, Japeth Aguilar of Ginebra and naturalized Filipino center Andray Blatche.
Before plunging into action on July 5, Gilas Pilipinas will play a tune-up game against Turkey at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on July 1.