Gilas Pilipinas flies to Turkiye hoping to show readiness for OQT

Gilas Pilipinas flies to Turkiye hoping to show readiness for OQT

/ 04:30 AM June 26, 2024

Dwight Ramos leads Gilas Pilipinas past Taiwan Mustangs in a tune-up game

Dwight Ramos leads Gilas Pilipinas past Taiwan Mustangs in a tune-up game. –MARLO CUETO/

National coach Tim Cone was brutally candid when asked to assess Gilas Pilipinas ahead of the tall task in the Fiba Olympic Qualifiers (OQT).

“I don’t expect us to be ready at this point,” he told reporters late Monday night, shortly after thumping the Taiwan Mustangs, 74-64, in the first of three tuneup matches lined up ahead of the showcase in Riga, Latvia.

“We’re not ready, [and] that’s why we’re still practicing and playing friendlies—so we could get ready. I hope to see improvement. I hope to see us get better on both sides of the ball,” he added.


And so Gilas left for Turkiye on late Tuesday night, hoping to do just that. The Philippines is slated to play higher-ranked Turkish and Polish national teams in what is shaping up as a simulation of the foes that await in the OQT next week.

“Poland’s No. 15 in the world, so they’re gonna give us a good feel (of the competition). And Turkiye’s No. 24—and they’re much better if their NBA guys show up,” Cone said. “It should be a great indication [of our capabilities] by the time we get to Riga.

“We’re just trying to get our game right. We don’t care if we win or we lose,” he added.

“They’re friendlies, so we’re not going to go in-depth in terms of scouting or trying to understand what they’re trying to do. We’re locked [in on] Latvia, we’re locked [in on] Georgia.”


Gilas is slotted with the world No. 6 Latvians and No. 23 Georgians in the Riga meet where one of the last four tickets to the Summer Olympic Games in Paris is at stake.

“[It’s] gonna be a tough task for us,” naturalized ace Justin Brownlee said of the remaining friendlies. “I think it’s great for our preparation for Latvia and Georgia and whoever we may meet in the qualifiers … and it’s gonna be a test—and—kind of measure what we have.”


Grounded by injuries

The pair of tuneup games will indeed be an accounting of sorts for Gilas, which brought only 11 players as AJ Edu, Jamie Malonzo, and Scottie Thompson have been grounded by injuries.

June Mar Fajardo, who missed the previous Gilas tour, has been reactivated for the OQT. Many-time skipper Japeth Aguilar has been reeled back into service, while Ateneo standout Mason Amos comes in as a late addition for the Filipinos.

“The idea is if we need somebody, we’ll go get them. We got Japeth, we got Mason. The thing with Scottie happened so late. [W]e just couldn’t get somebody for him,” Cone said.

“Again, we didn’t really feel we needed anybody for him at this point.

This is just the style that I want to do, and we came into this with eyes wide open and we knew this might happen. But also, if you remember the last window, we only had 10 players. Jamie didn’t play. June Mar didn’t play. AJ didn’t play. we only had Japeth as the sub,” he added.

“Going with 10, 11 guys? Not a problem for us.”

Program fixture Dwight Ramos couldn’t agree more.

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“You only need five players on the court,” he said. “So 11’s good enough.” INQ

TAGS: Gilas Pilipinas, Sports

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