Cone sees tough road ahead

September 15, 2023 Robert Andaya 283 views

THE new-look Gilas Pilipinas under coach Tim Cone will play tune-up games against Korean Basketball League team LG Sakers and PBA team Meralco as part of their preparations for the 19th Asian Games basketball competitions in Hangzhou, China.

The quadrennial event is scheduled on Sept.23-Oct. 8, with the Filipinos taking on Middle East nation Bahrain as their first assignment on Sept. 26.

Among the Gilas Pilipinas players who attended the open practice were PBA Best Import awardee and naturalized player Justin Brownlee, six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo, Chris Newsome, Calvin Oftana and Jason Perkins.

FIBA World Cup veteran Roger Pogoy was also present, but decided to watch the action from the sidelines.

“We have a tough road ahead of us in the Asian Games,” admitted Cone, referring to Gilas’ three elimination round games against Bahrain (Sept. 26), Thailand (Sept. 28) and Jordan (Sept. 30).

“We still don’ t know much about Bahrain but we’re trying to figure it out. We know Thailand from the SEA Games and they’ve gotten better and better with their naturalized players. Their program is really growing by leaps and bounds so we know they’re going to be tough,” added Cone.

“Jordan is a tough opponent, too, with PBA import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson leading them. We have to figure out a way to play Rondae.”

Cone said if the Filipinos can get a seat in the next stage, they will meet either Japan or Korea next.

“And of course, host China will be there somewhere along the way,” said Cone.

Asked about the decision to play the Sakers in the tune-up game, Cone said he wanted toagain get a grasp of the Korean brand of basketball this early with a possibility of a playoff game between the Philippines and South Korea.

“They play the Korean style, so hopefully, that will help us prepare when we have a chance to go against Korea. We’ll have a little bit of a feel because Korea wasn’t in the World Cup. We haven’t played and scouted them in a while. That’s something we have to figure out over the next couple of weeks,” said the Barangay Ginebra mentpr.

For now, Cone is inviting basketball fans to come and watch Gilas Pilipinas’ game against the LG Sakers on Sept. 22, one day before the team flies out of the country to China.

“We hope that we can fill the stadium up. We are not selling tickets, so we hope we have a full stadium on Sept. 22,” said Cone after conducting a an open practice for the 12-man national team at the Philsports Arena in Pasig last Thursday.

The open practice was held alongside the Philippine women’s team under coach Pat Aquino.

Although the venue was not filled to the rafters during the joint practice of the men’s and women’s teams, several l9yal fans still showed up to show their support.

Most of the fans were even allowed to take selfies with their favorite players after the practice, according to Cone.

The Gilas Pilipinas open practice being conducted by Cone is a big departure from past practices of closed-door training under coach Chot Reyes.

Even Gilas’ tune-up games against Montenegro, Mexico and Ivory Coast shortly before the FIBA World Cup 2023 in Manila were also held without fans and even media.

The basketball groupings:

Group A — Iran, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Group B — China, Lebanon, Taipei and Mongolia.

Group C — Philippines, Jordan, Bahrain and Thailand.

Group D — Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Qatar.

The Filipinos will play Bahrain on Sept. 26 at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre; Thailand on Sept. 28 at the Zhejiang University Zijingang gymnasium; and Jordan on Sept. 30 at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre again.