The Batang Gilas program, now enforced with tall, athletic prospects, needs a few more elements for it to fully succeed.
Participation in tournaments overseas and guidance from foreign coaches should be on the priority list of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), according to former national team mentor Tab Baldwin.
The current Ateneo De Manila Blue Eaglets head coach gave his impression on the current state of the country’s youth program in the Radio5 92.3 radio show “Power & Play”, hosted by former PBA commissioner Noli Eala, last Saturday.
With the rise of prodigious talents like AJ Edu and the US-bound Kai Sotto, ceiling wouldn’t be much of an issue for the Batang Gilas pool.
“We have some exciting prospects in our junior program right now. We’ve got some unprecedented size for the Philippines with Kai Sotto and AJ Edu. We’ve got some really talented players like Jeron Artest and Dave Ildefonso. So, we’ve got guys who I think can compete legitimately in the international stage and we don’t have any excuses talking about size,” Tabwin said.
In the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship held in Nonthaburi, Thailand, tasked to man the shaded lane were Edu, Sotto, Geo Chiu, and Raven Cortez – a relatively tall Batang Gilas frontline with an average height of 6-foot-9 ¾. Despite having guards standing below 6-foot-1, their skills alone would be enough to match-up with taller opposition from other countries, explained Baldwin.
“We’re going to have some smaller guards but as long as they’re talented and quick and tough, which they should be able to be, then I don’t think we have to feel like we have to take a backseat to anybody,” said Baldwin, who was at the helm of the men’s basketball program from 2014 to 2016. In February, Balwin’s name floated as the top choice as head for the youth basketball program.
With a sizeable pool of talent, next up for Batang Gilas – if Baldwin had it his way – should be stints in tournaments abroad, as well as training under coaches and experts from other countries.
“We have to do a lot of work toughening up and getting some experience for the international game because I still think that’s our biggest weakness here in the Philippines. I think we’re still far to insular. We think our game here, our league here are the ‘be all and end all’ and yet we love what’s going on outside. Well if we love it so much then why aren’t we bringing in more coaches and more experts to teach us how it’s done on the outside,” Baldwin quipped.
“That’s where the great wealth and development of the game is. We have to broaden our horizon a lot,” he added.
In June, the Batang Gilas selection travels to Heraklion, Greece for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup. For just the second time in the tournament’s 40-year history, the Filipino youth squad joins 15 other nations vying for the World Cup crown.