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Baldwin sets all-out training

14BALDWINGilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin is expecting to see all 24 players named to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament roster attend their first full-scale practice starting next week.

The Nationals have been doing their once-a-week practice sessions the last few months to avoid any conflicts with the PBA teams in the ongoing PBA Commissioner’s Cup which is set to conclude soon.

One thing that excites Baldwin is the expected arrival of naturalized player Andray Blatche who is set to plane in either on the 15th or the 16th.

“The agreement that’s been worked out is to seize him over here around that time. It’s important that he gets in a few days before we start so he can get the jet lag out of his system and I will feel comfortable when we start practicing,” said Baldwin.

Of the 24 players whose names were submitted to FIBA, 17 are from the PBA teams where four of them are currently competing in the ongoing finals namely Calvin Abueva of Alaska and Jeff Chan, Paul Lee and Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine.

The OQT is scheduled July 5-10 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City, with Gilas in Group B with France and New Zealand while in Group A are Turkey, Canada and Senegal.

The winner of the OQT will advance in the Rio Olympics in Brazil this August.

Baldwin said that the training session would resume for all the national team members on May 18.

Part of the preparation of the national team is several matches opposite international teams, including a pair with Iran.

“We’re hoping to have five games, if you count two with Iran it looks like we have two. One will be sort of a scrimmage that would be a coach-controlled scrimmage, so it won’t be really a game,” said Baldwin.

“We hope to get three while training in Europe, and one here that is fairly close to the start of the tournament,” added Baldwin.