Fajardo Fajardo in action. FIBA photo

Gilas battles Taiwan

June 24, 2024 Robert Andaya 230 views

NO Dwight Howard, no DeMarcus Cousins, and no Quinn Cook for the visiting Taiwan Mustangs yet.

But Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tim Cone expects a tight and exciting battle when it meets the Taiwan Mustangs in an exhibition game at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig on Monday.

The Taiwan-based team has earlier secured the playing rights on Howard, Cousins, and Cook, but a team official said the three former NBA players are not expected to suit up for the team until the end of the month.

Still, the Taiwanese team is certainly no pushover even for the Gilas Pilipinas team bound for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia.

The Mustangs, who are currently playing in The Asian Tournament, are being handled by former Rain or Shine coach Chris Gavina and led by ex-PBA players Alex Cabagnot and Rashawn McCarthy along with import, veteran 7-foot-6 Sam Deguara.

The Filipinos and the Taiwanese battle each other at 6 p.m. at the Philsports Arena in a friendly game that is being opened to the public by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).

The Justin Brownlee-led Filipinos just concluded their three-day, closed-door training camp at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba Laguna as part of their preparations for the July 2-7 Paris Olympic qualifier in Latvia.

Cone is hoping to make the most from his injury-hit line-up for the qualifier with Scottie Thompson, AJ Edu, and Jamie Malonzo skipping the tournament.

The game against the Mustangs will be the only tune-up match that Gilas will play at home.

The Filipinos are scheduled to leave for Europe on Tuesday.

The Filipinos play Turkey on June 27 and Poland on June 29.

From there, the Filipinos will proceed to Latvia for the qualifiers, first taking on the host country Latvia on July 3, and Georgia the following day.

Aside from Brownlee, the other members of the team are June Mar Fajardo, Kai Sotto, CJ Perez, Chris Newsome, Calvin Oftana, Dwight Ramos, Carl Tamayo, Kevin Quiambao, Japeth Aguilar and Mason Amos.

In the OQT, the Philippines is bracketed with host and world No. 6 Latvia and No. 23 Georgia in Group A.

Group B will have Cameroon, Brazil, and Montenegro during the qualifiers.

The top two teams from each group will advance to the crossover semis.

Only one team will advance to the Paris Olympics.