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Gilas Pilipinas says goodbye to Olympic bid.
For Gilas coach Tab Baldwin, the main reason why the Philippine team suffered an early exit in the Manila leg of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament and (OQT) and came away with shattered dreams of making it to Rio de Janeiro is plain and simple.
Preparation. Or the lack of it.
Given just two months to train for the OQT with a handful of tuneup matches, the preparation of Gilas fails in comparison to the other teams, including New Zealand, which delivered the knockout blow on the bid of the national team to earn a spot in the Olympics next month.
“When you look at these other teams, when you look at New Zealand’s buildup, I think they had either 10 or 12 matches of preparation (for the OQT),” said Baldwin after Gilas lost to the Tall Blacks, 89-80, late Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“I think we have about five, not counting the Iran games. You look at the European teams… this is their life. They play this level all the time.”
“So we need more of this; this is the pathway and trust me, there is no other pathway. So if we want to start winning at this level, we got to take a bunch more beatings at this level to know how to win at this level,” added Baldwin.
The national team likewise dropped its game against Tony Parker-led France, 93-84, last Tuesday.
With a 0-2 record to end the elimination round, the hosts were the first to be eliminated.
It took a while before Baldwin could get his hands on his team.
Since majority of the players named to the Gilas training pool all came from the PBA, Baldwin had to wait for the Commissioner’s Cup to finish until late May.
That was the only time Baldwin was able to gather all players for the weekly training after conducting Monday practice sessions back in November. Naturalized player Andray Blatche joined the team a short time later.
Prior to its departure for a European training, the national team played former Asian champion Iran – first in a scrimmage and then in an exhibition match won by the national team.
Gilas had a nine-day training camp in Greece, then played Turkey in a tuneup in Istanbul and competed in a pocket tournament in Bologna, Italy, losing to the host team first but beating China after to settle for third place.
The team returned June 28 and three days later lost to Turkey anew in an exhibition match. All in all, the national team played five games as part of the buildup for the Olympic qualifier.
Despite the loss, Baldwin sees some positive things with the Gilas campaign, including the unity and support of the Filipinos during the games. President Duterte even watched the game against France.
As for the program that is being bankrolled by various companies owned by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Manny V. Pangilinan, who has been doing this since 2011, Baldwin said it’s good and should continue in the next several years.
“I think if you put this in the context of our program, it’s a positive that we get this competitive experience for Philippine basketball players. It’s also an eye opener for us to understand that we need a lot more of this if we expect to be successful at this level,” said Baldwin.
“Certainly, we were competitive and that’s a positive because there probably was a time when we probably wouldn’t be competitive at this level.
“We’ve shown that in 2014 (World Cup in Spain). Now it’s about figuring out how we can get the personnel and the experience because it’s difficult for these guys to play at this level when you only do it so few games a year.”
Baldwin said he and the coaching staff, as well as SBP officials will have to discuss the program since the next big event for basketball is the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
“We have to sit back, we have to analyze why that didn’t happen and we have to try and fix it again (program),” said Baldwin. “Gilas will have to live to fight another day, and that’s what where we are now.”