Mission accomplished for Gilas in King Abdullah Cup

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 16 2021 04:09 PM | Updated as of Aug 16 2021 04:10 PM

Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin. File photo. FIBA.basketball 
Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin. File photo. FIBA.basketball 

MANILA, Philippines -- They may have not made the podium, but Gilas Pilipinas still accomplished what it set out to do when it competed in the King Abdullah Cup in Jordan.

This, according to Gilas Pilipinas coach and program director Tab Baldwin, who stressed that the results of their games were not their primary focus in the competition.

"I was relaxed about our results," Baldwin told former PBA commissioner Noli Eala on his "Power and Play" program this weekend. "(I was) more interested in the performances of our players and then as a team, collectively."

The Philippines finished in fourth place in the tournament, having registered wins over Saudi Arabia, Jordan-B, and Tunisia in the group stages. However, they lost to Jordan-A in the knockout semifinals, and to Tunisia in the third-place game.

Baldwin said that their results were "okay," and he was especially pleased with their 74-73 overtime triumph against Tunisia, which saw naturalized center Ange Kouame come up with a game-saving stop in the dying seconds.

"It was an excellent win," Baldwin said.

"To beat Saudi Arabia and to beat Jordan B, we expected to do that. So nothing special about that. Losing to Jordan twice, little bit disappointing, but you know, they were the ultimate champions of the tournament," he added.

Regardless of the results, Baldwin believes they accomplished what they set out to do in Jordan, which was to continue the team's progress especially after their previous competitions.

Gilas Pilipinas had competed in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July. 

"No question, the learnings was there," said Baldwin. "That's the whole point of going and doing these things, is to learn more about these young players and how they step up at each level against this style of basketball."

"And so, the important thing is we got more knowledge about our team and about our roster," he added.

The pocket tournament was initially set to be a tune-up for the FIBA Asia Cup tournament, but the continental championship was postponed to July 2022. Even with this development, Baldwin said there was no drop off in the sense of urgency of the players.

"When it comes to competition, they're very excited about every opportunity, and they look forward to it. I don't think that there was any drop-off, about how these guys felt about playing in the King Abdullah as opposed to not having that as a warm-up for FIBA Asia," he said.

With the FIBA Asia Cup and the Southeast Asian Games both postponed, Gilas Pilipinas has no competitions lined up in the coming months but Baldwin said they cannot afford to take too much time off.

The Gilas players are expected to have at least a couple more weeks off, while team management figures out their roadmap for the rest of the year. Baldwin also acknowledged that these plans will depend on the COVID-19 situation in the country, which will dictate how they can return to practice. 

"This is a program, and a program needs functionality, and this is a development program, and you don't develop sitting at home playing your PS4," said Baldwin. 

"We need to get back on the court. We can't let the gains that we've made get rusty," he stressed.

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