Feb 20, 2024

Cone lays foundation for Gilas' long-term vision

TIM Cone is tempers expectations on the Gilas Pilipinas team competing in the qualifiers of the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup.

First and foremost, it already lost height advantage even before playing its first game against Hong Kong on Thursday as seven-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo and young big man AJ Edu are both nursing injuries and won't be suiting up in the opening window of the tournament from Feb 22-25.

And second, it's an entirely different team from the one which won the historic gold medal in last year's 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

But Cone likes the composition of this new batch of Gilas, whose core lays the foundation for future national teams.

"We're still searching for ourselves. We haven't found ourselves by any means, and we don't expect at this point. We know that we're not going to be as good now as we are in the next two or three windows, but we do feel that we found a foundation," said Cone on the eve of the team's departure to Hong Kong.

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The injuries to Fajardo and Edu leave coach and his coaching staff with only an 11-man roster against the home team, with veteran Japeth Aguilar a late addition who took the spot vacated by the 6-foot-10 San Miguel star.

The team left for Hong Kong on Tuesday, with Aguilar joining them on Wednesday after his wife gave birth to their second child.

"He's (Japeth) really God-sent because we really lost a lot of size losing June Mar and AJ," said Cone.

But injuries and all are part and parcel of the game, according to the Gilas coach.

"You have these kind of things that happen all the time. You just have to roll with the punches and continue to deal with this," said Cone. "That's what I like about this team. It's not an All-Star team. This is a team that we're going to keep together and it's going to have it issues.

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"We're not going to win every game, we're going to lose a few games along the way, but as long as we compete, as long as we continue to compete for the top spots in these windows and such, then we'll be learning along the way as we go."

After Hong Kong, Gilas returns to the country over the weekend and prepare for its match against Chinese Taipei on Sunday at the Philsports Arena.(RG)