As the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) draws near, Gilas Pilipinas will not just be there to play the game but to take those possessions one possession at a time, said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) program director Tab Baldwin.

/ 5 May 2021

The national team pool will be facing Serbia and the Dominican Republic in the Group A of the FIBA OQT scheduled from June 29 to July 4.

To secure their place in the 12-team Tokyo 2020 Olympic field, the Philippines will be needing to top the Belgrade group and it will not be an easy task as they will be facing these two basketball giants.

According to Baldwin, his approach as a coach is going out there to win more possessions than their opponents. 

“If I said to you, ‘Can this Gilas team of all cadets stop Serbia on one possession from scoring?’ You’re gonna say, ‘Yes, of course, they can,'” he told Hoops Life.

“Serbia’s not gonna score on every possession of the game. And I’m gonna say you’re right, and I’ll say, ‘Can they score on one possession? Can they do enough to get a shot and make the shot?’ And you’re gonna say, ‘Yes, we’re not gonna get shut out.’ Nobody does, and if they can do it once, why can’t they do it twice? And if they can do it twice, why can’t they do it more than Serbia?”

“And when we run in scenarios or it seems that we can’t score, that’s when the coaching staff steps in and makes adjustments and tries to help players find a better route toward winning each possession. That’s how our coaching staff is gonna construct, we’re gonna try to construct victories in every game that we play,” Baldwin continued.

Baldwin will be deploying an all-cadet team in the OQT headlined by PBA special draftees Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte, Jordan Heading, William Navarro, Tzaddy Rangel, and Jaydee Tungcab.

In the previous matchup of Gilas against Serbia during the 2019 Worlds, the national team is composed of PBA stars with Andray Blatche as their naturalized player.

The all-amateur team built by Baldwin will also be competing in another international competition in the third window of the qualifiers in June and the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup in August.

“I can’t recall, in my 20 years of international basketball experience and 40 years of coaching and kind of watching what’s going on in the world, an all-amateur team ever competing in elite international tournaments like we did in all three Fiba windows, the OQT, and the Asia Cup, if we continue down this path. In fact, the competition only gets higher at the World Cups and at the Olympics,” Baldwin said.

“And  so, my position on answering that question is the same as when I answer a question when somebody asks me ‘Is Ateneo’s gonna win another championship?’ And I said ‘Look, I’m only worrying about the next possession.”