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Looks like Gilas Pilipinas project director Tab Baldwin’s interview about the status of professional basketball and the local coaching profession in the country drew some flack from both the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines (BCAP). Calling the PBA’s one import conference as not at par against other professional leagues in the world and our local coaches “tactical immaturity” caused coach Tab to be suspended and fined for 3 games by the PBA.

I believe the PBA has a right to know what they need to do to improve the quality of games in the league and coach Tab should have aired his concerns in the proper channels and not through media. I do, however, believe that his comments have merit and were delivered with the intent of improving our craft as a basketball hotspot in Asia.

Coach Tab pointed out that unlike the professional leagues in Japan, China, and Korea, the PBA has stuck with the one import formula for the longest time. The Euroleague and Australian NBL also allow as much as 3 imports to help improve the quality of their games. I believe that the PBA should revisit the 2 import formula but not let go of the All Filipino Cup. Make the PBA a 2 conference season, one All Filipino, and, as suggested, an import reinforced conference allowing teams to field 2 foreign reinforcements.

This move will improve local hoops by leaps and bounds. If we are concerned that the locals may not get a chance to shine with the imports around, the All Filipino Conference is their avenue to strut their wares and prove themselves to gain minutes in the import reinforced conference. Make the All Filipino a double round elimination affair to develop local talent more and then introduce the new reinforced conference with a single round elimination so the local players, particularly the 9th to 15th players don’t get too rusty due to lack of playing time. A single round reinforced conference also helps teams save money on import salaries since we are only talking about a 3-month conference.

On Coach Tab’s comment about local coaches being “tactically immature”, I think that his intent was to help improve local coaching in general. His was a call to improve one’s trade since the Philippines still embraces the isolation, 1:1 style of play as against a fluid ball movement offense which is a staple in the Euroleague. Philippine basketball continues to pattern their play against the more physically gifted and talented players of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and he did say that we can never be at par with those players so our best bet really is to adapt to a team-oriented offense (and defense) such as the nature of play in Europe.

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I do not believe that Coach Tab meant harm when he gave those comments out. I view it as a call for change and vindication for him would be to have a great showing in the upcoming 2023 FIBA World Cup of which his mission is to build the team that would give us our best chances of entering the medal rounds.

GILAS 2023 Outlook

Speaking of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, it may still be too early to tell what the Gilas composition would look like but with a lot of promising young talent locked up in the Gilas pool, I strongly believe our hosting of the quadrennial event will merit our strongest line up in our hoops history. There are 2 reasons to be very optimistic about this. AJ Edu and Kai Sotto.

Both Edu and Sotto will hit their prime age (22-23 years old in 2023), would have grown 1-2 more inches by that year, and perhaps, barring major injuries, may already be playing in the NBA. Now that’s a very bright future for Philippine basketball!

Do we need a naturalized player? Perhaps a rim protector can help do the job. Seven-foot center Angelo Kouame of the Ateneo Blue Eagles could be the project that Gilas is developing to battle against the giants of the World Cup. He is strong, has the agility to sprint down the court, and has the post up moves enough to keep defenses honest down low. It would not hurt to get another naturalized player to match up with Kouame, let them slug it out for the naturalized player spot, and choose the best of the two before the World Cup proper.

Add veteran June Mar Fajardo, who would only be 33 years old in 2023, and we’re talking about a good big man rotation for Gilas. We would not have to worry about one big man getting into foul trouble because we now have the depth to protect the paint.

To surround our big men with complementary pieces, we can count on a bevy of big wing players and shooters in the likes of Poy Erram 6’7 (should be converted as a stretch 4 or a 3), Kobe Paras 6’6, Troy Rosario 6’6, Dwight Ramos (rookie of the Ateneo Blue Eagles) 6’5, Thirdy Ravena 6’2, and Bobby Ray Parks Jr 6’3.

The guard rotation should have Kiefer Ravena 5’11 and Robert Bolick 6’0 to orchestrate the plays. For insurance, CJ Perez, and RR Pogoy, both standing 6’2 should be converted to help bring down the ball and defend against the bigger FIBA point guards. Parks can also be a suitable, spot minutes, ball handler for the team.

I believe Mark Dickel, interim Gilas Head Coach, should be appointed a full-time coach since he knows the Euro-style of play and also knows coach Tab’s system. We have 3 years to assemble the team, get them to compete in international tournaments, and mature together in time for the World Cup. Things look bright for Philippine basketball and I do wish coach Tab the best in putting the pieces together to bring Philippine basketball back in the world map.

(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)


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