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'Outstanding athlete' LeBron Lopez has bright future, says Tab Baldwin

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At 6-foot-5 with a long wingspan and elite athleticism, LeBron Lopez is exactly the type of player that officials at the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) want to develop for Gilas Pilipinas moving forward.

But the next step, according to program director Tab Baldwin, is combining those tools with a better feel for the game.

"I think people are pretty accurate in their assessment. He is an outstanding athlete. He certainly fits the criteria of length that we're looking for -- long arms, athletic guy and very, very active, a lot of energy," Baldwin said on Tuesday's episode of The Game on ONE News.

"But LeBron has a lot to learn. He has a lot to learn about the concepts of the game, understanding the nuances of execution."

The 17-year-old Lopez is the youngest player inside the national team's training bubble at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.

Aside from his physical profile, Baldwin noted how the Ateneo commit has shown the ability to be a teachable prospect.

"He's just a great kid and really, really willing to learn, always attentive when the coaches are talking to him, and always competitive when it's time to play. So he has a very, very bright future," he said.

Baldwin also took notice of Lopez's character and said his down-to-earth approach towards teammates will bode well for his continued development moving forward.

"I think he's in a great situation here in the Gilas bubble and he gets along really well with the other players," he said. "There's humility to the kid too, you know. Understanding that he's the youngest, he doesn't try to bigshot anybody because he has a big name and he has a big following, he doesn't act like that at all.

"I really appreciate the kid, he's doing a great job."

Lopez is also one of the many amateur standouts in the pool to have Ateneo roots, joining current Blue Eagles teammates SJ Belangel, Gian Mamuyac, Troy Mallillin, Geo Chiu, Kyle Ong, Jason Credo and Josh Lazaro, as well as fellow newcomer Chris Koon.

Including William Navarro, Dwight Ramos, Dave Ildefonso, Angelo Kouame, Isaac Go and twins Matt and Mike Nieto, the number of standouts playing or have played under Baldwin has ballooned to 16.

The concurrent Ateneo head coach explained the volume of Blue Eagles in the current pool and said such a situation helps speed up the process of teaching the newcomers since "there are similarities" between the Gilas system and that of his collegiate team's.

"It does give the Ateneo players a little bit of an advantage in terms of recognition and comfort, both with the systems and with my coaching style," he explained.

Baldwin singled out Gian Mamuyac as an example and said the current Ateneo team captain's presence in the camp "is like having another coach out there."

"There's a big question mark over him whether he's going to be elite enough to be in that roster, but certainly from the standpoint of contributing to the environment, his familiarity and his comfort with what we do, what we're trying to do and how we do things that really helps the other players, particularly the younger players because they need as much guidance as they can get," said Baldwin.