Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin said there’s no reason for him to treat the Olympic Qualifying Tournament as means for the all-amateur squad to gain experience.
The all-amateur squad faces a tall order in the Tokyo Olympics qualifier as it needs to hurdle host Serbia and Dominican Republic in Group A of the Belgrade phase slated in late-June.
While acknowledging that fans would be satisfied with a good showing in Serbia, Baldwin said in an episode of Hoops Life that there’s no reason why Gilas can’t give it a shot against the fancied foes.
“That is a very important question and it’s a question that everybody deserves an honest answer or two. And I think most people would have an expectation that the honest answer would be ‘Oh, let’s just put a good showing there,’” Baldwin when asked if Gilas can sneak a win or two during the podcast that aired on the Facebook page of Smart Sports.
“It would not be out of the realm of reality for me to say, ‘Look, we just want to go there and put on a good showing and gain experience.’ But that goes against everything that I ever said as a basketball coach.
“And so, my position on answering that question is the same as to 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,’ he continued.
“I want everybody to understand how true this statement is and this is why underdogs win. Let me tell you why? 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. Serbia’s not gonna score on every possession of the game.’ 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. If they can do it twice, why not they can’t do it twice? And if they can do it twice, why can’t they do it more than Serbia?’
“So this is my approach as a coach. I don’t know if we will win, and we’re not going out there to win. We’re going out there to win more possessions than our opponents are and to take those possessions one possession at a time.
“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 towards 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 concluded.
Gilas opens its campaign on June 30 against Serbia before taking on Dominican Republic the following day to wrap up the preliminary round. The top two teams in Group A advance in the crossover semifinals. The winner of the title game secures an Olympic berth.
The Philippines gained an OQT berth after New Zealand pulled out of the competition. Gilas has secured a commitment from Kai Sotto to play in the said tournament while Ange Kouame could be available, pending a signature of President Duterte that will make him a naturalized Filipino.