Baldwin’s gamble on ‘big, fat’ Isaac Go pays off

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Dec 01, 2016 04:08 PM
Baldwin’s gamble on ‘big, fat’ Isaac Go pays off
NO RICE DIET. Tab Baldwin saw something in Isaac Go and kept pushing him to see it too.

Right after the final buzzer sounded in the classic clash of titans between Ateneo de Manila University and Far Eastern University last Wednesday, a never-before-heard chant rang out inside the Araneta Coliseum.

“Isa-ac Go! Isa-ac Go!”

The blue and white side yelled, showering their newfound hero with much appreciation.

The chants were all for George Isaac Go, the Blue Eagle who made good on the follow-up of a miss by teammate Matt Nieto in overtime.

That was Ateneo’s first and only field goal in the extra period, but it proved to be the difference in a game that featured nine deadlocks and 21 lead changes.

Making his actions even more heroic was how the second-year center had to fight through a bloodied nose just a couple minutes before his go-ahead basket. Still amazed at all that happened, he quipped post-game, “I never thought I’d get to this point, making the shot that would take us to the Finals.”

How far the 20-year-old has come.

According to head coach Tab Baldwin, Go flew so low under the radar before the beginning of the season that even team management seemed to forget about him. “When I joined the organization, I looked around and said, ‘What do we have for big men?’ Everybody pointed at G-Boy (Babilonia) and (Chibueze) Ikeh and nobody said anything about Isaac,” he shared.

He then continued, “I said, ‘What about the big, fat kid over there?’ And they said, ‘Well, he can do some things, but he doesn’t have much experience and he didn’t play much last year.’”

Once the “big, fat kid” got to playing ball, however, he turned Baldwin into a believer. “As soon as I saw him play, I said this kid has something,” he expressed.

That is exactly why from that point on, the American-Kiwi mentor has been constantly challenging Go.

First and foremost, the challenge for the former Xavier School standout was getting into game shape. And it was, without a doubt, easier said than done as Baldwin narrated, “I told Isaac, ‘You’re not gonna eat rice anymore.’ And he said, ‘But my mom will get upset with me if I don’t eat rice.’”

He then continued, “And I told him, ‘I’m already upset with you that you’re telling me that.’”

Go himself recalled those first few weeks. “I remember, yes, first day, he (Baldwin) called me fat. The first few weeks of training, he was surprised because everyone was losing weight but me.”

He then continued, “So he had a long talk with me about my diet, my eating habits and that helped me lose pounds immediately.”

According to the Blue Eagles’ big man, he weighed 250 lbs when his coach referred to him as the “big, fat kid.” He now walks around at 235 lbs, now that he is Katipunan’s newfound hero.

After those first few weeks, everything else has only gotten better for Go and in turn, Ateneo and Baldwin. “We worked on his body then we worked on his mind. The skill set, intelligence, and confidence were already there,” he said.

And in the eyes of the Gilas Pilipinas mentor, the once “big, fat kid” is only starting to scratch the surface of his potential. “Like this team, he’s an evolving commodity and I think, we’re gonna see some pretty special things from this kid over the next few years,” Baldwin shared.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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