Gilas Pilipinas project director coach Tab Baldwin has hinted a mixture of PBA players and collegiate standouts as possible roster for the national team in the FIBA Asia Cup Window 3 in February next year in Clark, Pampanga.

Baldwin mentioned this Thursday afternoon in an online press conference that formally launched the partnership of FIBA and Smart Communications for the 2023 World Cup, which the country is co-hosting with Japan and Indonesia.

According to Baldwin, several PBA players will be invited for the training camp starting January, which gives the national team one month to prepare for the Feb. 18 to 21 tournament where the national team meets Indonesia, and plays South Korea twice.

“We should be able to access some PBA players,” said Baldwin, referring to the availability of the pro players since the PBA – led by Commissioner Willie Marcial and board chairman Ricky Vargas of TNT Tropang Giga – is on a break to give way to the qualifiers.

“What the mix of that would be is really up to the players. We want to get in the camp, we want to get all our players into camp and we want to see them workout against one another.”

Read: Pro players to reinforce Gilas in February qualifiers

“The ultimate goal for us is to create a talented team, not a team of talents and so it’s up to the players to find their place within this talented team,” he added.

During Window 1 of the qualifiers last February in Jakarta, a mixture of pro and amateur players composed the Gilas squad that defeated Indonesia, 100-70.

However, in Window 2 last November in a bubble tournament in Bahrain, the country sent an all-amateur national team because pro players were either given a rest or were still playing in the PBA Philippine Cup.

Even in that situation, Gilas proved to be too much as the Filipinos won two games against Thailand, 93-61 and 93-69.

The pair of wins improved the record of Gilas to 3-0 in Group C, ahead of Korea, 2-0, Indonesia 1-2 and Thailand 0-4. Baldwin said that the experience was a big boost to the amateur players.

“We’ve been working down on these little pathways of developing our younger players to become quality international players in the hopes that many of them, some of them will become part of our 2023 roster, and in fact we hope that the roster is dominated at that point in time,” said Baldwin.

“But there is always going to be room for, and in need for experience in our team if we expect to compete at the elite level.”

Veteran coach Jong Uichico, who mentored Gilas in the two victories against Thailand, said that starting the first weeks of January would be crucial in preparing the team for the third and last qualifying window.

“First we’ll start early for Window 3,” said Uichico. “We’ll come in early January so that we can get together for a long period of time that gives the system to mature… the players to mature and get everything on track.”

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is expected to release a list of players to be invited in the training camp, which may include PBA players Kiefer Ravena of NLEX, Poy Erram, Troy Rosario and RR Pogoy of TNT as well as CJ Perez of Terra Firma.

As for the collegiate standouts, all 16 players on the training pool last November are likely to be included like Nieto brothers Matt and Mike, Gomez de LiaƱo brothers Juan and Javi, Fil-Am Dwight Ramos, Kobe Paras and Santi Santillan.

Also in the mix is NBA D-League player Kai Sotto, who made himself available for Gilas, although Baldwin said it’s up to the handlers and coaches of the 7-foot-2 baller and the SBP currently in talks for a possible stint this February.

Meanwhile, the SBP – led by Chairman Emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan and president Al Panlilio – formally announced the tie up of Smart with FIBA, which makes the top telecommunications company the official sponsor for the World Cup in 2023.

FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis also attended the online presser.

Source: Manila Bulletin (