The flower of youth is in full bloom with Gilas Pilipinas, and former national team captain Jimmy Alapag is in awe of the current crop of talents bannering the flag and country in international competitions.
However, the 43-year-old Alapag believes that, as promising as the current program is, Gilas should still consider the need to throw in several veterans in the mix.
“For me, you look at these first three games and it’s really, really impressive for this team. This is really the next generation for me,” Alapag, who carried the torch of Philippine basketball for the better part of 2010s, said in an episode of SMART Sports’ Hoops Life.
“But if you talk about playing against the world-class teams – your Serbias, your Croatias, and your Argentinas – me, personally, you’ll need some professional guys there.”
In the recently-concluded Clark window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, the Philippines, which finished the tournament unblemished in three games, paraded the youngest lineup ever deployed in team history. This Gilas iteration boasts a good blend of size, speed and skill, but lacks the experience of international competition.
For this reason, Alapag stressed that the presence of mature and experienced voices in the team can help guide the young Gilas players down the path to success.
“If you look at this time and how they played, just imagine if this team could have a chance to talk to a Gabe Norwood or an LA Tenorio or a Jayson Castro and say, ‘Hey! You guys played in two World Cups'," Alapag opined.
He then continued, "They are all great young players but in terms of the veteran leadership and the experience, I think somewhere down the road… This will be up to Coach Tab [Baldwin] and his staff, whether it’s half the team or four or five guys, whatever the case might be, you’ll need some veteran guys on the floor."
This, however, poses a challenge for the Gilas Pilipinas program.
Conflict of schedules will come in the way of the national team should it tap the services of several professionals from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). After all, there is no shortage of action overseas with several tournaments in line such as the Belgrade Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the Asia Cup, the World Cup Qualifiers, and the Southeast Asian Games, among others.
“Of course, there are also challenges with the PBA schedule and so forth but I do think in preparation for the World Cup two years for now, from now until then, you’ll need to find a way to include some of the pro guys," Alapag bared.
For the betterment of the Gilas program, Alapag hopes that his vision can see the light of day in the foreseeable future.
“I think it would be a huge thing for this young team and that will be the challenge for the coaching staff on how they can integrate the veteran guys to this young team,” he said.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
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