FIBA Asia Cup

Cone, Gilas eye friendlies vs European teams in buildup for Olympic qualifiers

Delfin Dioquino

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Cone, Gilas eye friendlies vs European teams in buildup for Olympic qualifiers

TEAM. Gilas Pilipinas in action in the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.


Head coach Tim Cone says Gilas Pilipinas received tuneup game invitations against European squads as they gear up for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament

MANILA, Philippines – It only gets tougher for Gilas Pilipinas from here on out.

After a stellar sweep of the first FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers window, head coach Tim Cone and the Nationals turn their focus on the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where they face an uphill climb against two top 25 teams.

The Philippines has its work cut out for it as it battles world No. 8 Latvia and No. 23 Georgia in the group stage of its OQT leg set in Riga, Latvia, in July.

And to gear up for their quest to qualify for the Paris Games, Cone and his crew brace for possible tuneup games against a couple of European squads.

“We’ve got some invitations from Lithuania, from Slovenia, and the Czech Republic. We’re going to work our way through those and see what we can do,” said Cone.

The Nationals are on a high after a pair of blowout wins against Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei to kick off their Asia Cup Qualifiers campaign.

Drubbing Hong Kong by 30 points on the road and crushing Chinese Taipei by 53 points at home, the Philippines secured the top spot in Group B, which includes New Zealand, with a whopping 83-point win margin.

Cone, though, knows the barometer has been raised significantly higher considering the caliber of foes that stand in the Philippines’ way in the OQT.

Latvia is coming off a stunning win over basketball powerhouse Spain to sweep the first window of the FIBA EuroBasket Qualifiers.

According to FIBA records, Latvia has won 23 of its last 26 games, making it the hottest national team in the world.

Georgia, despite a winless start in the EuroBasket Qualifiers, remains a major threat as it boasts of two NBA players in Goga Bitadze of the Orlando Magic and Sandro Mamukelashvili of the San Antonio Spurs.

“This 2-0 start is great, but that is a little baby step on the way. We need to make a lot more bigger strides as we go as the next game we play is Latvia, which is top eight,” said Cone.

“We got Latvia and Georgia coming up. So can we get to that level?”

Gilas Pilipinas also has to deal with a short preparation time, with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas striking a deal with the PBA, UAAP, and the Japan B. League to allow the players to practice for 10 days before the OQT.

“So that might be 10 days here, Inspire camp every day, or maybe it is going out and trying to find some friendlies against European teams so we can get a feel with the way they play,” said Cone.

“We have not all figured that out yet but we are in the midst of figuring it out.” –

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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.