On Thursday (June 24), the young Gilas Pilipinas team flew to Serbia for their upcoming Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) matches. 

Although the Philippine delegation has victory in their sights, coach Tab Baldwin mentioned that their OQT stint will double up as a training ground for the young players. 

“Serbia for sure is going to be teaching us a lot of lessons. There’s no question about that,” Baldwin said in Zoom call on Wednesday night.

“I don’t think Dominican (Republic) is going to be a lot different,” he added. 

The 12-man roster of Gilas will face-off with host Serbia on July 1, who’s fifth in the world rankings. A day after, the team will battle it out with the Dominican Republic. 

According to Baldwin, these matches will feel similar to the ‘clinic’ he and some of his players – former Blue Eagles – attended a few years back, where they played against Greek players. This experience, he noted, gave his players a look into European basketball. 

“They’re a really robust, athletic team. They have big, strong, athletic men,” Baldwin described the European players.

“It’s like looking at four Ange Kouames running around out there on the court but with 10 years experience,” he emphasized.

Baldwin admitted that the tournament will be difficult for the team and that they need to be smarter about their strategy. 

“It’s a difficult tournament play,” he said. 

“We have to be smart as a coaching staff. We have to measure our losses and take them where we can, conserve our energy the best we can and be as competitive as we can,” he added. 

In the OQT, only the top two teams in each group will advance in the knockout stage. And only the winning team – in the knockout stage – will receive a ticket to participate in the Tokyo Olympics. 

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