Gilas PH eyes win over Hong Kong in Fiba Asia qualifiers
FIBA ASIA QUALIFIERS

Gilas PH eyes win over Hong Kong: ‘If we don’t, then we probably shouldn’t be here’

/ 05:25 AM February 22, 2024

Gilas Hong Kong Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers

Gilas Pilipinas huddles at midcourt after finishing a training session at Hong Kong’s Tsuen Wan Sports Centre. —DENISON REY A. DALUPANG

HONG KONG—When the new look Gilas Pilipinas tests its mettle on Thursday, the Nationals understand how big of a first step they will be taking against a lower-ranked Hong Kong squad in the opening window of the Fiba  Asia Cup Qualifiers.

“As coach Tim (Cone) said, this is one team that we can really beat, so we need to do just that. Winning this first game will be our building blocks,” June Mar Fajardo told the Inquirer on the sidelines of a long practice at Tsuen Wan Sports Centre here.

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“We need to do well, make sure that we make good on our executions because this is all preparatory for our next games,” he added.

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SCHEDULE: Gilas at Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers window 1

The Philippines is ranked 39th in Fiba’s global rankings, and Hong Kong’s way down at No. 119. But as Fajardo said, the 8 p.m. match at the same venue is the springboard Gilas will be needing to manufacture momentum heading into a challenging stretch.

Riga tournament

Gilas is slated to battle Chinese-Taipei—a team that nearly made the podium in the last Asian Games—at home this Sunday, and then faces higher-ranked Georgia and World No. 8 Latvia in the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in Riga.

“[Hong Kong is] a team that we should handle. If we don’t, then we probably shouldn’t be here. It’s going to be a terrible shock for all of us if we don’t. The bottom line is that this isn’t the level of teams that we’ll be playing all the time,” Cone said.

READ: CJ Perez seeks further improvement under Tim Cone at Gilas

Cone and his charges huddled for a good 30 minutes, before trialing schemes and simulating scenarios with assistant coaches Jong Uichico and Josh Reyes throughout the remainder of the team’s three-hour practice slot.

By the time Gilas practices one more time on Thursday morning, the team will have racked up a total of three training sessions here in preparation for the hosts.

Nick Chiu, a local who serves as a guide for the team in its short stay in the country, let out a chuckle when asked about the chances of the Hongkongers, who will be led by former Bay Area Dragons standout Duncan Reid.

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“Just look at the world rankings and you’d see a big difference already,” he said.

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The Philippines will be fielding only 10 men from its original long haul cast with Fajardo and AJ Edu out due to injuries. 37-year-old Japeth Aguilar, a pioneering member of the Gilas program, steps in for the squad that will have the indefatigable Justin Brownlee as the tip of the spear.

TAGS: FIBA, Gilas Pilipinas

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