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Tab Baldwin echoes SBP's statement about PBA players in next qualifying window

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Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) program director Tab Baldwin hopes to have a wider pool of players that could include PBA stars for the third window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in February.

Backing the comments made by SBP president Al Panlilio on Tuesday, Baldwin said the PBA having a later start date for the 2021 season might mean that some of the league's national team mainstays could give Gilas Pilipinas a bit of the boost in the next window.

"I think we've already seen boss Al's comments in the media that we'll probably be looking at bringing PBA players back into the mix. Those were his comments and I support that," he said on the Coaches Unfiltered podcast Thursday. "I think with the PBA planning a later start date in 2021, there may not be restrictions on what we could do with PBA players."

Having PBA players could certainly provide a huge lift for a Gilas team that is set to face South Korea and Indonesia after fielding an all-amateur lineup against Thailand in the Bahrain bubble last November.

Baldwin, however, acknowledged that it still depends on how talks between SBP and the PBA -- as well as collegiate teams who might look to begin training with their stars early next year -- go in the coming months.

"Until the bosses all sit down and discuss all of that, we don't know," he said. "Obviously, we have to talk to all of our partners that are involved in the basketball landscape -- my good friends at the PBA, SBP, our bosses. And all of the college teams too -- we don't know where the college programs will be by the start of January, so there's a lot has to be done."

At the moment, Baldwin said everyone will be considered in the third window. That includes the 14 men who played in Bahrain and Angelo Kouame, who took one step closer to being naturalized after his appeal was approved by the House Committee on Justice on Wednesday.

"Certainly we're hoping to have access to the same pool of players, and if we can extend that to other players -- including a possibility of Ange Kouame getting his naturalization, we still don't know if that would be completed by then but that would be great as well -- and if all that could happen, I think we can do some different things moving forward in the February window," said Baldwin.

Baldwin wants Uichico, rest of staff to 'continue to be involved'

No decision has been made as well on whether Gilas will retain interim head coach Jong Uichico and the rest of the coaching staff for the next window.

Baldwin, though, wants them to stick around.

"We don't have answers to that right now, although I was so pleased with the coaching staff that I will be petitioning that they continue to be involved," he said. "Whether we expand that group or not, I hope so because I think there's room for more expertise."

Uichico called the shots for the young Gilas team against Thailand and was backed by Baldwin, San Beda head coach Boyet Fernandez and TNT Tropang Giga assistant coach Alton Lister.

Baldwin only had praises for Uichico, whom he described as a "very, very good coach" and "probably one of the easiest guys that you'd ever want to work with".

"I was talking with coach Mark (Dickel) while was I was over in Bahrain, and he doesn't know coach Jong very well -- they've met of course, and they've had a few conversations. But coach Mark said to me, 'Jong must be the most chilled coach I've ever seen on the sidelines in my life.' And I was like, 'Yeah,'" Baldwin shared. "Coach Jong has so much experience, and he has such a relaxed demeanor. He's very easy for the players to work with."

While Baldwin admitted that he often chimed in to give his input with the nine-time PBA champion coach at the helm, the Kiwi mentor said this didn't really cause any problems between him and Uichico.

"Yes, I'm not the easiest guy to work with, and I'm a bit of a bully for a lot of people. So, you know, I stuck my nose in sometimes, but coach Jong and I, we discussed everything. And he was aware that I was going to, you know, inject myself," he said.

"And so everything was sort of according to plan and I hope that it never looked like we weren't in unison with one another because we had constant meetings, it was all very clear to us how it would work."