Follow FIBA on Facebook
Next man up mentality has Gilas heading with no fear towards a bright future
MANILA (Philippines) - Jordan Heading has seen and played a lot of basketball throughout his career playing in different parts of the world. Even then, there’s not much that can be compared to these past months of being a part of Gilas - the Philippines senior men’s basketball team - for Heading.
We just have 12 guys who are out there to do their jobs, do their role, and play their hearts out.
Playing for the Philippines is nothing new for the Filipino-Australian. Heading had represented the youth national team - Batang Gilas - back at FIBA U16 Asian Championship 2011 and played for Filipino club Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL). However, the past months of being in training camp, playing at the Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers, and playing at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia was an entirely different experience.
"I’ve been pretty fortunate, playing in some high-level basketball around the world, but I don’t think anything has compared to these last few weeks as far as the competition goes," Heading said in a recent interview with CNN Philippines. "This is the highest level of basketball that you can play in the world. Myself and these other guys, we haven’t experienced that before and that was an unbelievable opportunity for us and a learning experience."
"It’s been a lot of fun, just the whole experience has been positive and the support that we felt from the Gilas fans and from the entire country whether it’s in the Philippines or its the Filipino fans in Serbia. I’ve never felt this kind of support on a team that I’ve been on and it’s been awesome."
Aside from the supporters, Heading also embraced the opportunity to go up against some of the best whether it was at the Asia Cup Qualifiers or the OQT.
"It was a pretty unbelievable [during] last couple of weeks for me just being on the same court with some of the greats like [Milos] Teodosic and Boban [Marjanovic] and even some of those Dominican players. There were some really high level players that it was really an honor to just be on the court with those guys and being able to compete and put up some real games."
The Philippines and Heading went through an impressive run over those few weeks. After going undefeated in 3 games at the Asia Cup Qualifiers in Clark, they went to Serbia for the OQT. They played against Serbia and nearly pulled off an upset in Serbia in what was a memorable game for Philippines basketball.
One key component that factored into that relative success for Gilas was the chemistry that they displayed on the court. It was a level of cohesion that has taken time to build and develop, but looks like will be worth the effort heading into the future.
"It’s been a fun process of just getting to know these guys," Heading said of the team’s chemistry. "[We] spent about 3 months in the Caloocan bubble so obviously seeing each other all day, every day accelerates that process."
"Being able to go overseas to Serbia and over to Clark for these tournaments, that definitely helped me just being around the boys in different environments and it took our relationships to the next level."
"When I first got into the bubble, the only guys I knew were Tzaddy Rangel from when we played for Alab [Pilipinas] together and also Isaac Go from my Batang Gilas days so I was really coming in as a new guy. I heard a lot of these guys, but I’d never met them and it was fun to finally get to know them."
The chemistry that Gilas has developed within the team has been essential, especially when injuries occur within the roster. Nonetheless, Heading and the team have been able to keep the ball rolling with a mentality that everyone embraces.
"I don’t think that there was an additional pressure," Heading said in reference to when the team had to play in the OQT without Dwight Ramos. "We had some additional injuries prior to this, like our captain Ray Suerte and Matt Nieto, so we had a lot of key guys that were hurt."
"I guess we had a lot of experience with that stepping up already and we also got a good tune up game against China without Dwight so we were able to prove - even just to ourselves - that we can be just as strong of a team using that next-man-up mentality. It’s just guys stepping up and playing their role within the system, with or without certain guys."
An important piece that brings that all together is the mastermind behind the game plans and preparations, coach Tab Baldwin. The seasoned tactician has helped to greatly develop the play of this young Gilas squad and Heading is not an exception.
"It’s been a lot of fun," Heading said of playing for coach Baldwin. "It’s been a huge learning experience just being able to see the game through his eyes. He really is a genius of the game with the way he just sort of manipulates every part of every possession to try and make it work for our advantage."
"The attention to details is something that I’m really learning about. The importance of every little offensive and defensive play, there’s always something you can tweak to make it work towards your advantage."
"It’s something that had been stressed to me when I was in college in the States, but it’s really taken a whole new level with coach Tab and I think just the way that you are forced to think about the game when you’re playing for him, that’s something that you can’t help but improve your game when you’re so locked into every little bit of the game."
The future is bright for this young and talented Gilas squad that are hungry to get better and even hungrier to succeed. They were relatively inexperienced heading into the Asia Cup Qualifiers and the OQT, but they offset that disadvantage by not backing down.
Now that they’ve logged significant hours at the big stage, it should be expected that they’ll be an ever better team.
"I think the most impressive thing for me - I’ve said it before in prior interviews - is just the no fear mentality that we play with," Heading said.
"I think a lot of people could make a lot of different excuses for us that we’re young, that we’re inexperienced, that a lot of these guys haven’t even played in college yet. But I’ve been really impressed whether it’s in practice or in these games, they’re not scared about going up against these big-named guys or even guys who have bigger bodies than them."
"It’s really a no fear mentality that we play with and we fully trust the system the system that we’ve been working at and we’re going to continue to get better as we continue to perfect this system."
That "system" is something that has been emphasized by the program throughout the early stages of developing this team.. The Philippines have a very deep talent pool with many players available that play at a very high level, but they are going to be detailed about utilizing the players that work best in their game plan. Heading has found and embraced his role, making note that everyone who wants to be a part of this will have to do the same.
"… Preparation is key. I don’t think it would be smart to have guys come in who aren’t familiar with the system and you haven’t had time to gel with the rest of the guys, so I think that’s what is most important. That we have guys who can come in and really dedicate themselves to the system and play within their roles."
"I think the biggest thing about this team is that we don’t have any dead set superstars. We just have 12 guys who are out there to do their jobs, do their role, and play their hearts out. I think whoever comes in, they just need to know that. You gave to play your role and you do your job that Coach Tab and the rest of the coaching staff is asking of you and you absolutely have to play your heart out because you’re playing for flag and country."
For Heading, that is something that he is prepared to do for as long as he can.
"If I’m able to and if Gilas wants to call me back for however long, it’s always going to be an honor. It’s never going to be something that I’ll get used to or becomes normal for me. It’s been such an honor and whenever I’m asked to do it again it’s something that I’ll always strongly consider."