Jul 07, 2024

Cone eyeing to keep Gilas roster intact for next World Cup

FOLLOWING its impressive run in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, coach Tim Cone expresses hopes of keeping the core of the Gilas Pilipinas team in the coming years leading to the next FIBA World Cup.

With a program and system now in place, Cone said it's imperative to have the same group of players in the national team as it takes a shot at qualifying in the 2027 World Cup in Qatar, and the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

"The whole part of bringing this particular program together is the fact that we're going to, hopefully keep these guys together over the next three to four years, try to keep them together going into the next World Cup," said the Gilas coach in the aftermath of the team's 71-60 loss to Brazil in the OQT semifinals Saturday night in Riga, Latvia.

"It's hard to talk about this right after you lose, but it's a growth experience for us."

Gilas did grow in the July 2-7 qualifiers where it pulled off a monumental upset of world no. 6 Latvia, 89-80, to open its campaign.

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It lost a close game against Georgia, 96-94, though the margin wasn't enough to stall the Filipinos from advancing to the semifinals against Brazil.

In the semis, the Filipinos had a great start by leading the Brazilians by as many as 12 points early in the second period and were still up, 33-27, at the half.

Unfortunately, they failed to sustain their game as Brazil stepped on the gas pedal in the third and held Gilas to just six points to take the driver's seat, 51-39.

Gilas never recovered after.

Despite failing to march on to the finals, Cone sees the need to keep the roster intact moving forward with the kind of experience and confidence it earned during the short but grinding tournament.

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"It's kind of like a 'now we know' moment. Now we know we can compete, so how can we get that next step in which we can get a little bit better than not just compete but win?," stressed the national coach.

"Playing these kind of tournaments where you're playing three games in four days and it gets harder and harder every game, these are the things that we'll need to adjust to. But like I said, we didn't expect to be here but once we're here, we expected to win. It's an incredible disappointment for us. We're not gonna jump and down and say 'yehey, we did our thing and everybody was proud of us,'" added Cone. "Hopefully, that doesn't get into our mindset. We need to keep pushing and move forward, getting better."

The entire Gilas team is expected to return to the country from Latvia within the week. (RG)