Introducing the new Gilas

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star
Introducing the new Gilas
Here are 10 things that were noticeable in Gilas’ swashbuckling start to coach Tim Cone’s four-year program where the goal is to make it to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
STAR / File

After demolishing Hong Kong by 30 and Chinese-Taipei by 53 in the FIBA Asia Cup first qualifying window, Gilas proved it has the potential to go far in international play with the right system, right players and right coach. The next test for Gilas will be a huge challenge as the national squad joins Latvia, Georgia, Brazil, Cameroon and Montenegro in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia on July 2-7.

Here are 10 things that were noticeable in Gilas’ swashbuckling start to coach Tim Cone’s four-year program where the goal is to make it to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

• Unselfish play. It didn’t matter that Cone had 11 players at his disposal for Hong Kong and 10 for Chinese-Taipei. Nobody cared for individual stats. Against Hong Kong, Gilas racked up 33 assists and against Chinese-Taipei, 30. Scottie Thompson averaged 3.5 points but stood out with nine assists in both games.

• Size and youth. No need for a giant naturalized import. Justin Brownlee, whose official height is 6-4 5/8, is heaven-sent for Gilas. Besides, Cone has 7-3 Kai Sotto, 6-10 June Mar Fajardo, 6-10 AJ Edu and 6-9 Japeth Aguilar to lean on. The roster includes young guns Sotto, 21, Edu, 24, Carl Tamayo, 23, Kevin Quiambao, 22, Dwight Ramos, 25, Jamie Malonzo, 27, and Calvin Oftana, 28, making the future look extremely bright.

• Fan rapport. Cone’s idea to give fans access to players solidifies the sixth man concept. Cone knows about the benefit of crowd support at Barangay Ginebra and opening Gilas’ practice doors for public availability before plunging into competition is a major positive. There will still be closed-door practices, especially at Inspire, but the opening of the doors even for just one session is a gesture of appreciation.

• Working together. Gilas isn’t just a team. It’s a way of life. And it involves players, coaches, utility, staff and SBP and PBA officials. It’s evident that everyone is on the same page, working together, sacrificing together, winning together, losing together, moving forward together.

• No hesitation to join. When the call to duty came, nobody had a second thought to enlist. They were ready to report as soon as their numbers were called. There was some reluctance in the past for whatever reason but now, everyone is excited to participate.

• Buying into the system. Cone has set a direction for the team and it’s a vision that every player on the roster is committed to embrace. Cone’s system of play is also something that the players have bought into, a system that requires discipline, unselfishness, ball movement, making the extra pass and hard work.

• Enjoying the pressure. Because basketball is the country’s No. 1 sport, there is always pressure on Gilas to deliver. Expectations are high. Fans demand positive results. With Cone’s approach, the players are enjoying themselves on and off the court. They’re feeling the pressure but they’re not backing off. They view the game as a way to give back, to inspire and to display their skills and it’s fun to live the journey.

• Designated roles. Players aren’t confused as to what they’re supposed to do on the floor. Their roles are clearly defined so there is no overlapping. Shooters, lock-down defenders, facilitators, rebounders, rim protectors, help defenders, screeners and pacesetters are honed to execute.

• Respecting the game. Cone finished the Chinese-Taipei outing with his starters to show respect for the visitors and to get more burn time for his first five. Chemistry is critical and juggling combinations to match up against specific opponents is a necessary adjustment during a contest.

• Going hard for 40 minutes. It’s about creating good habits. Cone is a stickler for consistency. Intensity has to be at a high level, no matter the margin of difference in the scores. Gilas never took its foot off the pedal in crushing Chinese-Taipei, showing no mercy and collected six dunks. Welcome to the New Gilas.

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