SBP 'certainly ruling out' PBA players for November window of Asia Cup Qualifiers

The usual bevy of options will not be on the table for the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) for the November window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, but its top officials know where to start looking to piece together a competitive Gilas Pilipinas roster.

For starters, the search obviously won't involve any personalities currently inside the PBA bubble in Pampanga.

"We don't expect the PBA bubble to be broken in any way. We're certainly ruling out PBA players and coaches," program director Tab Baldwin said Tuesday on Sports Page. "We have to shake bushes and rattle cages and find players that deserve to be there and are available."

Instead, Gilas will lean heavily on its current pool of special Gilas draftees and players from the collegiate ranks. Players based abroad will also be considered, though that would prove to be a challenging search.

"We're either looking overseas which is very difficult, or look into the college ranks which is probably most likely and Coach Ryan (Gregorio) and I spend our time working on," said Baldwin.

Right now, Gilas has six players in its training pool: Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Matt and Mike Nieto, and Allyn Bulanadi, as well as Jaydee Tungcab.

Baldwin, however, knows they'll need talent to fill deficiencies across the roster.

"We are extremely fortunate that we have a pathway: six dedicated players. Imagine if we didn't, all players are in the PBA, we would be left with no dedicated Gilas players," said Baldwin.

"At least we have players, that we really own their minds, own their bodies and develop them as a core. But with great lack of experience at this point and serious deficiencies position-wise. These things that we have to shore up cracks as much as we can, as fast as we can and at the same time see what weaknesses we can identify in our opponents," he added.

Greg Slaughter expressed interest to play for Gilas and is perhaps the most talented big man available right now, but Badlwin reiterated that they are waiting for the center to finish his own discussions with Barangay Ginebra first.

"I think Greg would be an asset. I've seen his video, I think it's great. I would certainly welcome that but it's not a done deal at this point. We have to work out with Greg and the powers that be in his situation right now," said Baldwin. "There are processes that have to be taken care of and have to be done correctly. Ryan and the SBP are working through that situation as well."

SBP is also still in the process of selecting a head coach, though special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio said Coaches Academy head Jong Uichico may be a shoo-in to the coaching staff.

"We're still deliberating on that one," he said of their coaching search. "We've had a couple of names already. But if there is one name we both agreed on, it's that Coach Jong Uichico should be part of the coaching staff."

Baldwin, meanwhile, said he's more interested in the development of the program rather than coaching the national team.

"Certainly I aspire to coach at the highest level. I think it's such a blessing to be at this point in my career to work as a project manager, to work on long term goals like 2023, to develop players and I'm really passionate about that," said Baldwin.

"Yes, I wanna have a role in coaching the national team, but right now my passion and my dedication and my job is the development of the program. To talk right now about being a head coach and project director, that's in conflict with itself," he continued. "Yes we have to react to the scenario we're in, but I'm passionate about the development of our program and turning them into legitimate international players. I'm excited and challenged about that. It's integral to our success down the road.

SBP admitted it is "practically scrambling" in the whole process, but there's still a lot of optimism on the part of its top officials.

"To be quite honest with you, we were all surprised. But if you're really rooting for the game to restart, one way for us to go back to a little normalcy, we are excited for the whole thing," said Gregorio.

Added Baldwin: "God has a plan. He has a plan for all of us. We as basketball people just have to find our way within that plan the best way we possibly can."