April 23, 2024

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Tim Cone guides Gilas Pilipinas through FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers adversity

4 min read
LONG-TERM GILAS. Tim Cone underscores a long-term vision for the Gilas Pilipinas, which goes beyond their FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers stint that suffered a setback due to the absence of seven-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, and the promising young big man AJ Edu, both sidelined by injuries. PSC-POC PHOTO

In the face of adversity, Tim Cone remains a steady hand steering the ship of the reconstituted Gilas Pilipinas team, emphasizing a long-term vision that extends beyond immediate expectations. 

As they embark on the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, Cone understands the challenges ahead.

The injury bug has bitten hard, robbing Gilas of its towering presence in the form of seven-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo and the promising young big man AJ Edu. 

Even before tip-off against Hong Kong, the team had to reconcile with the fact that these key players wouldn’t be gracing the court during the opening window of the tournament from Feb 22-25.

This, however, has yet to dampen Cone’s optimism. Instead, he sees it as an opportunity for the emerging core of this new Gilas team to lay the groundwork for future national squads. 

The composition of the team may be different from the one that clinched the historic gold medal in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou last year, but Cone believes in the potential of this evolving roster.

As the team departed for Hong Kong, Cone conveyed that they were currently in the process of discovering their identity. He acknowledged that they haven’t fully realized their potential yet and don’t anticipate reaching their peak. Despite recognizing that their performance might not be optimal in the immediate future, Cone expressed confidence in having established a foundational base for improvement over the next two or three windows.

Despite the setbacks, Cone remains resilient, acknowledging the challenges posed by the injuries to Fajardo and Edu. 

The coaching staff now has to navigate the qualifiers with a trimmed-down 11-man roster, with veteran Japeth Aguilar stepping in to fill the void left by the sidelined 6-foot-10 San Miguel star.

Cone acknowledged that Japeth’s presence is a blessing, considering the significant loss of size due to the absence of June Mar and AJ. This underscores the necessity of being adaptable in dealing with unforeseen challenges.

The departure to Hong Kong took place on Tuesday, with Aguilar joining the team on Wednesday after the joyous occasion of the birth of his second child. 

Cone recognizes the importance of keeping the team together despite the adversities, emphasizing that this isn’t an All-Star team but a cohesive unit that will face challenges and learn from them.

He stressed the inevitability of occasional losses in their journey, emphasizing that the crucial factor is the team’s commitment to competition. As long as they strive for top positions in various events, they will gain valuable insights and experience, highlighting the developmental nature of their ongoing journey.

After the Hong Kong clash, Gilas will return home over the weekend to prepare for a showdown against Chinese Taipei on Sunday at the Philsports Arena. It’s a testament to Cone’s strategic vision, focusing not just on the immediate battles but on constructing a team that can contend and evolve.

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