Long way to go for Gilas – Cone

John Bryan Ulanday - Philstar.com
Long way to go for Gilas � Cone
Gilas Pilipinas is off to a 2-0 start in Group B of the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers.
STAR / Russell Palma

MANILA, Philippines – The ship has sailed with flying colors for Gilas Pilipinas in a new, exciting era but the journey to the coveted destination is still miles away.

“Make no mistake about it, we have a long way to go,” said head coach Tim Cone after an unbeaten start in Window 1 of the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers. “We have a lot of work ahead of us and a long way to go.”

Cone, who was appointed as the Nationals’ permanent head coach just last month following his gold medal feat in the Asian Games that ended the country's 61-year drought, wasted no time getting his newly assembled unit to work with a 2-0 start in Group B of the qualifiers highlighted by a 53-point whipping of Chinese Taipei, 106-53, over the weekend at the Philsports Arena.

Gilas — made up of veterans and rising stars from the PBA, UAAP and the Japan B. League plus Justin Brownlee as the naturalized player — first clobbered Hong Kong, 94-64, on the road for a whopping 41.5-point winning margin in its first two games under Cone.

But it’s just the beginning — and somehow for Cone, a short-lived ending to a booming curtain-raiser of a long-term program geared toward making it to the 2027 FIBA World Cup and ultimately, the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

“We won't play until another three or four months. And so, it kind of feels like an ending for us. We wish we had one more game to play next week or in a couple of days but that's not something we control,” said Cone as they go separate ways for now with him and his wards returning to their mother clubs.

Brownlee is expected to play overseas in the meantime while Cone, Scottie Thompson, Chris Newsome, CJ Perez, Calvin Oftana, Jamie Malonzo, June Mar Fajardo and replacement Japeth Aguilar will play in the PBA Philippine Cup starting Wednesday.

Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, Carl Tamayo and AJ Edu will go back to the Japan B. League as Kevin Quiambao reconnects with La Salle in the UAAP.

All of them will not reunite until June when Gilas prepares for the Paris Olympic Qualifying Tournament against Latvia and Georgia featuring a possible training camp in Europe after getting invites from powerhouse teams Lithuania, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

After that, Gilas’ next hurrah will still be in November for Window 2 of the Asia Cup Qualifiers against New Zealand and Hong Kong once more.

And as much as Cone wishes there’s more — and longer — time to mold his squad into one cohesive bond right here and then, that’s it for now and it’s up to them to try to ace the cards they are dealt with. But that has to wait.

“You always wish you have more time to prepare. I wish we could keep this thing going but that's out of our control so we'll live with what we have and that's our challenge. That's part of our big challenge,” added Cone.

“Every opportunity for us is going to be precious because we have limited opportunities. We have to do it that way. It's gonna take some hard work by these guys but the camaraderie is so good that they're willing to work together.”

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