Tim Cone confident Gilas can scale mountains in Latvia
MISSION: POSSIBLE

Tim Cone confident Gilas can scale mountains in Latvia

/ 05:30 AM March 09, 2024

Tim Cone talks to the Inquirer Sports staff during an awards dinner in his honor.

Gilas Pilipinas coach Tim Cone talks to the Inquirer Sports staff during an awards dinner in his honor. —MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

National coach Tim Cone knows that a steep trek awaits his charges in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Latvia this July.

But there’s not a dent in his faith that Gilas Pilipinas is capable of springing surprises and that the Philippines finally returning to playing in the Olympics in Paris is not far-fetched.

“I’m a big believer that there are hard things to do, but nothing’s impossible,” he said on Monday night, shortly after being honored by the Inquirer Sports staff with the Best Performance by a Coach trophy at posh Casa Buenas in Pasay City.

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“I know Latvia is gonna be really hard, but I don’t think it’s impossible. I really don’t. But I think it’s gonna be really hard trying to beat the sixth-ranked team in the world at their home court,” he went on.

Aside from the Latvians, who are hands down the hottest squad on the planet having won 23 of their last 26 games on the Fiba stage, the Nationals will also be playing world No. 23 Georgia. And if it does clear the group phase, Gilas could also play the top two teams of the other bracket that features Brazil, Montenegro and Cameroon.

“Those are all tough teams, but I also don’t think we’re the 37th-ranked team in the world,” he said, deadpan. “I think we’re much higher than that.”

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‘Keep it together’

Cone said he draws his optimism after having assembled a talented young team that will be training and playing together for an extended time.

“I think that because we’ve never really put a team like this together and kept it together,” he said. “We’ve never really had a chance to bring our 12 best players consistently all the time, keep it together, and do [tournaments].”

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Naturalized ace Justin Brownlee leads the long-haul cast that features PBA stars June Mar Fajardo, Scottie Thompson, CJ Perez, Chris Newsome, Jamie Malonzo and Calvin Oftana. Also in the bunch are Kai Sotto, AJ Edu and Dwight Ramos, who are plying their trade in Japan. Rounding out the cast are Carl Tamayo and Kevin Quiambao.

“You look at our size, our athleticism, from backcourt to frontcourt, there’s not gonna be many teams out there that are gonna outsize us,” said Cone. “There are some guys who are gonna be more physical than us, maybe.

“But they’re not gonna outsize us. I think that always gives us a possibility. It’s not impossible. We’re not gonna get overwhelmed by anybody’s size, by anybody’s athleticism.”

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“And we have strong guards who can defend. If we can bring our best game, bring our best version of ourselves, I think you know we are capable of beating anybody,” he went on.

Cone knows all too well that utilizing that wealth in talent and potential and tabbing actual results are entirely different from projections.

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“I think you know we are capable of beating anybody. Whether we can do that or not is the big question,” he said.

TAGS: FIBA, Gilas Pilipinas, Latvia, Tim Cone

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