While pleased with progress, Cone aims to squeeze more out of Gilas in FIBA OQT bid

Delfin Dioquino

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While pleased with progress, Cone aims to squeeze more out of Gilas in FIBA OQT bid

COMMAND. Head coach Tim Cone calling the shots for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2024 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.


'We're proving to ourselves that we can play with these guys, but we can't be satisfied with getting close,' says head coach Tim Cone as Gilas Pilipinas goes to war in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament

MANILA, Philippines – Now that Gilas Pilipinas has shown it can go toe-to-toe with top teams from Europe, the next goal for the squad is to actually pull off wins when the “real fight” – as head coach Tim Cone calls it – begins.

Although delighted with the way the Nationals battled against Turkey and Poland in a pair of friendly games, Cone aims to squeeze more out of his wards in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia.

The road to a coveted spot in the Paris Games is an uphill climb for the Philippines as it faces world No. 6 Latvia and No. 23 Georgia in the group stage.

“I’ve been pleased with our progress in the games. We’re proving to ourselves that we can play with these guys, but we can’t be satisfied with getting close,” Cone said through a message exchange.

“We need to get over the hump and that means more attention to detail.”

Sticking with their 11-man roster minus injured guard Scottie Thompson, the Filipinos gave world No. 24 Turkey a run for its money before absorbing a 73-84 loss in Istanbul.

The Philippines played better against Poland – ranked 15th in the world and reinforced by NBA player Jeremy Sochan of the San Antonio Spurs – as it fell short of a massive upset in an 80-82 defeat in Sosnowiec.

Protecting the ball is a major concern for Gilas after it totaled more turnovers (40) than assists (39) in the two tune-up matches.

There is little room for error in the OQT, with host Latvia determined to reach the Olympics for the first time since 1936 as it put together a solid team led by Charlotte Hornets forward Davis Bertans, Arturs Zagars, and Rodions Kurucs.

Georgia is also bringing its NBA players, with Goga Bitadze (Orlando Magic) and Sandro Mamukelashvili (San Antonio Spurs) leading its bid for a maiden Olympic appearance.

“This is not supposed to be a fun trip, it’s supposed to be the hardest thing we will ever do in our basketball lives,” said Cone. “The guys are pushing and I love it. But we still need more.”

Cone and Gilas arrived in Latvia on Sunday, June 30, and he hopes for the team to settle down amid a grueling European trip that saw it travel to three countries in less than a week.

“Hopefully, now that we’re here in Riga, things will normalize for us the next couple of days and we can catch our breath and focus on the tournament,” said Cone.

The Philippines will play two games in less than 24 hours as it tangles with Latvia and Georgia at 12 am and 8:30 pm, respectively, on Thursday, July 4 (Manila time). –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.