MANILA, Philippines -- A busy schedule in 2022 is exactly what the Philippine men's national basketball team needs, as they gear up for a crucial 2023 where they will compete in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
This, according to Gilas Pilipinas program director and head coach Tab Baldwin, who welcomes the challenge of competing in several international events next year.
Gilas Pilipinas will be in action in the FIBA Asia Cup, the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, as well as the Asian Games and possibly the Southeast Asian Games as well.
"It's great," Baldwin said of the packed schedule. "That's what basketball players and basketball coaches should want to do. That's what our program is designed to be able to confront."
"It's just so exciting to look at the calendar for next year, and just see month after month after month of official competitions, tough games," he added. "I think our players, they're gonna be beside themselves with excitement and joy."
Gilas competed in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament this year, as well as a pocket tournament in Jordan. However, their campaigns in the FIBA Asia Cup and the SEA Games were postponed to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The postponement of those events will make for a tougher schedule in 2022, as well as a bigger challenge in terms of putting the team together and preparing for the competitions.
But Baldwin says they have no complaints.
"It's who we are, it's what we do. And if we didn't have that, I'm sure that we would be complaining about the fact that we're not getting enough games," he pointed out.
"These are going to be high-caliber games. Our players are gonna improve dramatically. And I simply can't think of a better lead-up into 2023 than the 2022 calendar that we're staring at right now," he added.
Gilas is already qualified to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, as hosts. Japan is also qualified as a host, while the third co-host, Indonesia, can automatically qualify if they make it to the quarterfinals of the FIBA Asia Cup next year.
Otherwise, Indonesia will have to earn their slot through the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
Gilas' packed schedule officially begins in November, when they take on South Korea twice in the first window of the World Cup qualifiers. The team is expected to return to training soon, after having taken a break following their stint in Jordan.
"We have to be continuously creative on how we can move forward with our preparations," said Ryan Gregorio of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas. "September, I think, is still very quiet for us. But come October, it's gonna be tough for us, because that's the restart of our training once again, and November, we're preparing for the window."
"December again is something that we have to prepare for. Every month, we have something lined up for, and that is part of the conversation that I have with Coach Tab," he added.
According to Gregorio, they are lining up some international games for Gilas Pilipinas, including possible stints in the United States and Europe.
"Preparing for every window is very important for us. That will lead us to our journey to 2023. So again, a lot of experience will be generated by our players, because of playing against tough competitions here and around the world," he added.
Meanwhile, the SBP has promised its full support for Gilas' campaign, starting November in the first window of the World Cup qualifiers. This includes meetings with other stakeholders of Philippine basketball, including the PBA, UAAP, and NCAA, to discuss the availability of players for the national team pool.
"We still have to discuss this, but it's gonna be a struggle, also really for us to keep the team together. That's the challenge," admitted SBP President Al Panlilio in an appearance on "Power and Play" this weekend.
"We will work closely with Tab. We're also working on a program, a full-year program or beyond, in terms of how we can calendar all these. Napakaraming kailangan gawin, and the challenge is keeping this team together. 'Yan ang pinaka-problema talaga namin," he added.