Gilas ‘going for the win’ in World Cup Qualifiers despite outright berth

The Philippines will play in Group A with India, New Zealand, and South Korea for the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

After the draw on Tuesday, Gilas Pilipinas program director and head coach Tab Baldwin said he is looking forward to playing all three teams throughout the six windows starting in November.

“The initial reaction is: we’re going to be very excited at the opportunity to play against New Zealand. I’ve never been to India so that will be exciting and then, of course, our old foes with [South] Korea,” said Baldwin.

“I think Korea will be waiting for us. It should be a great experience.”

Gilas Pilipinas Men last met South Korea in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers in June, beating them twice and eventually finishing the tournament undefeated.

As one of the hosts of the 2023 World Cup, the Philippines gets an automatic berth but still has to go through the qualifiers, which Gilas won’t take lightly.

“We’re really going for the win because we want to develop that winning attitude,” said Ryan Gregorio, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ (SBP) Special Assistant to the President.

Baldwin expressed the same sentiments.

“You have to treat games as if there is no tomorrow and that’s how you develop that winning mentality in your players,” added Baldwin.

For the past several international tournaments, Gilas Pilipinas has used younger talents. And that likely won’t change by the time the 2023 World Cup Asian Qualifiers begin in November. 

“We’re never going to get out of the role of underdog for a long time with this Philippine team,” Baldwin said. “We may have had success, but we’re still a bunch of kids.”

According to Gregorio, Gilas hopes to start training by October, a month before the first window of the qualifiers. The immediate goal for SBP is to continue to hone and develop the young Gilas pool.

“We still have a lot of development to do with our players, and with our team as a whole — develop chemistry, develop the ability to work together, develop our best rosters,” said Baldwin.