Tim Cone grades chances of Gilas Pilipinas roster hopefuls
MANILA, Philippines–There were several names that cropped up as soon as Tim Cone was revealed as Gilas Pilipinas’ coach for the Asian Games.
The decorated tactician gamely commented on these cagers’ likelihood of joining the campaign in Hangzhou, China.
Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser led that bunch, as he has been among those named in the Entry By Name (EBN) list the national federation submitted to the Asian Games organizing committee a few months ago.
“They took some kind of a bone scan and they still found fractures that haven’t healed yet,” Cone said of the NLEX forward who was part of the gold-medal reclaiming squad to the Southeast Asian Games last summer.
“Now he’ll have four weeks of rehab to do so the timeline has been set for him. But we would love to have him. He was one of our ‘prime gets’ who we are not gonna be able to,” he went on.
Ange Kouame was among the players in that preliminary EBN list, but Cone said that the Gilas brain trust is still in the process of securing his commitment with an offer from a European pro club entering the picture.
“He’s definitely part of the Final 12 if he’s available. There’s something going on in Europe, and I’m not clear about the whole situation. That’s more (former team manager) Butch Antonio and Alfrancis (Chua) that’s working on that, and talking,” he said.
Justine Baltazar unavailable
A lot of fans on social media have been batting for Justine Baltazar, a versatile forward who served under the Tab Baldwin Gilas squads. But Cone said that the former La Salle ace has shown zero interest in suiting up for Gilas.
“Balti, we’ve been trying to get him forever but he’s not available. we tried to get him for the World Cup team, we tried really, really hard to get him for the World Cup, he was one of the guys that we really desired but he is just not available. He has shown us zero interest,” he said.
Cone played it coy when asked about Chris Newsome and Arvin Tolentino, who were with Ganuelas-Rosser in the SEA Games. The Meralco guard was also one of the final cuts of the World Cup squad.
He did, however, indicate that Gilas is seeking out TNT top gun Mikey Williams.
“There’s still a lot of guys in the PBA and some of the guys we’ve talked about are still up in the air … and you guys all know him, he can have a really big impact for us: Mikey Williams,” Cone said.
“But he’s not a lock on the team because we’re still trying to get him here in time to start preparing for us. But he would be a game-changer if we get him on the team. He could score and stretch the defense and he can open up things for Justin (Brownlee),” he added.
Help from Ginebra
Cone will be tapping his Ginebra players—Scottie Thompson and Japeth Aguilar—and asking other players to help in training to make up for the shrinking window of prep time. He did, however, note that Jamie Malonzo and Jeremiah Gray are both out of the picture due to their respective injuries.
Malonzo sustained a hip and back injury during the World Cup, while Gray is still trying to regain his fitness after hurting his knee during the Gin Kings’ On Tour campaign.
“We’re thinking about bringing in a couple of Ginebra players as (warm) bodies that could help us … maybe Sidney Onwubere, or Nards Pinto. we’d love to have Jeremiah, but sayang. He would’ve been perfect for this. He would’ve been the guy we would’ve put in this team, for sure. But we might put a couple of Ginebra guys on the team—knowing they won’t make the team—to help us out with practice just to help us along the way,” he said.
As things stand, only Aguilar, Thompson, and San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo are guaranteed to join the Gilas Pilipinas squad that will be led by the indefatigable Justin Brownlee.
And despite the many uncertainties surrounding the squad, Cone made one thing certain: They’re gunning for the gold.
“We’re gonna bring [positivity] and do what we can. As PBA chairman (Ricky Vargas) said, we’re not afraid to fail. We’ll learn from it and we’ll get better from it. The guys that we get, we’re gonna coach the heck out of them and see what we can do,” he said.