Baldwin warns Gilas: Practice or miss the cut

Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin rued the inconsistent attendance at their once-a-week practice with practically four-and-half months away from the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers.

On Monday night, 13 players, including San Miguel Beermen’s June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter who were in civilian clothes, showed up.

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Greg Slaughter, who has yet to fully recover from measles, excused himself along with Rain or Shine’s Paul Lee, Alaska’s Calvin Abueva and Tropang TNT stalwarts Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo for various reasons.

“I don’t like it (the attendance tonight). There’s only one acceptable attendance and that’s 100 percent and we haven’t had yet. I’m not a guy that mince words so when I say I don’t like it, I don’t like to encourage it to be that way,” Baldwin told FOX Sports on Monday night after their first practice this year.

Amateur standouts Kiefer Ravena and Kevin Ferrer were the 10th and 11th warm body during the practice that focused on plays against France, Gilas’ first assignment in the tournament.

Fajardo and Lassiter, who missed the last FIBA Asia tournament, showed their commitment despite not in uniform. They attentively watched the plays while Baldwin also made special mention of Fajardo to take note of their plays against France’s twin towers – NBA players Rudy Gobert and Ian Mahinmi.

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Baldwin called off their weekly practice when the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs started last November. After his return from a brief vacation, Baldwin was expecting to see all of them back since the Commissioner’s Cup is only just one week old.

“Each player should make a decision for himself about how committed they are going to be and we need to maximize that. And if we don’t, then those players who I think don’t make that kind of commitment will not be selected irrespective of their talents,” said Baldwin sending a stern warning to all the national pool players.

While they all asked for permission to excuse themselves, the American-Kiwi coach was obviously peeved.

“Of course, I won’t say no because they had good reasons but I would prefer if they re-prioritize so those reasons won’t exist,” Baldwin said.

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“There are certainly reasons that they don’t train but they should be here. We’ll see what the response is. I don’t have the authority to demand right now so it has to be demanded from other quarters. Hopefully we’ll get that,” he added.

Though Gilas’ groupmates France and New Zealand have yet to start training camp with some of their players still playing in their local leagues and the NBA, Baldwin again reminded that they should display a sense of urgency since they are lacking in all departments – from size to speed and even cohesion, which he hoped should be their trump card given the homecourt advantage and the full backing of the PBA.

“Cohesion is the biggest concern. Building chemistry, building a team and getting them focused now for something that’s six months away. That is a real difficult task,” Baldwin said.

“We need to maximize our (long) preparation time because it is not enough,” he added.

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