Alapag, Baldwin see SEA basketball catching up, want PH to stay ahead

Southeast Asian basketball is seeing a slow yet steady rise.

The continued development of the Philippines’ neighbors is a noticeable progress that’s bound to make the region’s basketball scene more competitive and exciting.

Such marked improvement can be traced to the seeds that every country is planting. Just like how our national team blossomed into one of Asia’s best teams in the first place, other SEA countries have begun focusing on building their programs with grassroots talents while reinforcing their teams with high-level imports to bolster their squads.

“In my limited knowledge of the region, I’ve seen a lot of improvement from these countries, most notably from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia,” Ateneo Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin said in a phone call with FOX Sports PH.

“They’ve continually improved their organizations and are focusing on their national teams.”

(photo from the Asean Basketball League)

Alab Pilipinas head coach Jimmy Alapag, on the other hand, has had the chance to see other Southeast Asian countries and players in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) and pointed out their own leagues and the ABL itself as the main driving forces for their progress.

“Looking at the past ABL season, it’s been great to see their growth and improvement. The opportunity for these countries to play against high-level competition throughout the year because of the ABL and their respective leagues in their home countries only provides the players a chance to gain valuable experience,” the six-time PBA champion wrote in a series of text messages to FOX Sports PH.

To say that the quality of Philippine basketball has declined even a bit, however, is a ridiculous idea for these coaches. Baldwin and Alapag continued to credit these other programs and struck down notions of ‘regression’ from our own teams.

“That’s plain ignorance. It wasn’t a regression at all, I actually think it’s an ascension. We just don’t get enough time and commitment from our players and I think we’ll need more of those heading into the future,” Baldwin quipped. “Those fans are wrong, they’re absolutely wrong.”

“We have to give credit to the other countries, many of whom now compete in pro leagues as well. Understanding we will get the best effort from every country, it’s just important we continue to work and prepare to be at our best,” Alapag shared.

(photo from

And as evidenced by Gilas Pilipinas’ close calls against their opponents in the 2017 SEA Games, having the mentality that a win is a sure thing against these countries in any match and competition won’t cut it and won’t be favorable for the Philippines anymore.

“Hopefully we can continue to stay ahead of the competition in the ASEAN region, but it will be important for us to continue to do the work, and also look for ways that we can improve,” Alapag said.

“It’s always going to be a challenge playing against them. (Their rise is) a natural thing to happen. They’re improving and they definitely have a lot more room to improve,” Baldwin added.

“We should be careful, not be complacent and look towards having more players invest more time in the national team.”