FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers is first step to Olympics for Gilas, Cone stresses

Ralph Edwin Villanueva - Philstar.com
FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers is first step to Olympics for Gilas, Cone stresses
Members of Gilas Pilipinas begin practice at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Philstar.com / Ralph Edwin Villanueva

MANILA, Philippines – One step at a time to the Olympics.

With the upcoming first window of the FIBA Asia Cup, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tim Cone said his personal goal for the team is to make the Olympics, whether next year’s Paris meet or the 2028 Los Angeles edition. 

Cone underscored that the upcoming first window is an important first step toward their Olympic goal.

“Our goal is, in my mind, to make the Olympics. I think that’s really our goal… whether it be Paris or whether it be LA in four years or five years. Our goal is to make the Olympics, and we do that by either qualifying in Latvia or being the best Asian team in the World Cup,” he told reporters at a press conference at the Philsports Arena Monday.

“To do that, we have to qualify for the World Cup and to do that we have to qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup. And it’s all a progression that goes forward,” he added. 

However, the coach underscored that for now, it is not their focus. 

“The next part of the process, this window here is part of the process that’s gonna take us forward and get us advanced.” 

Gilas will be kicking off its FIBA Asia Cup campaign against Hong Kong on February 22.

On February 25, they will face Chinese Taipei. 

The Nationals will be fielding an 11-man team for the first window — Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, Calvin Oftana, Carl Tamayo, CJ Perez, Jamie Malonzo, Scottie Thompson, Kevin Quiambao, Chris Newsome, Japeth Aguilar and Justin Brownlee. 

Original team members June Mar Fajardo and AJ Edu will not be suiting up due to injuries. 

Cone also said that the preparations and the first window are foundational. 

“Right now, we’re just trying to build a foundation. This is the first time we’ve had Kai and Carl and Kevin and Dwight with our group… But this is my first time to really get them really up close,” the coach said. 

“It’s really about building a foundation with which we can build from and this is our foundation now. This first window is, I hope, to be our foundation. We’ve done everything foundationally, we practiced everything that’s foundational.” 

The Asian gold medalist coach also underscored the need of the team to be growth-oriented rather than goal-oriented this early. 

Gilas had a public send-off training Monday night. 

Only Aguilar, whose wife gave birth to their child, was not able to join the training. 

“We kept telling our guys that we’re not gonna short cut. We’re not gonna jump around, we’re just gonna build consistently forward. That’s why this one’s important,” said Cone.

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