Tim Cone reacts during the gold medal game between the Philippines and Jordan. —REUTERS

Tim Cone reacts during the gold medal game between the Philippines and Jordan. —REUTERS

The country’s national basketball team, which on Monday officially started its era under Tim Cone, will be navigating its path to qualify for several high-profile tournaments using growth and continuity as its compass.

“I think that’s one thing that we’ve always talked about in terms of Gilas (Pilipinas)—that we don’t have a sure level of continuity, you know. So we’re hoping that we can use the [Fiba] windows that we have to grow the team,” he told reporters on Monday night, during the Philippine Sportswriters Association Awards Night at Diamond Hotel in Manila.

“This team is going to stay together, do every window, play the Southeast Asian Games, play the Asian Games, the World Cup qualifiers, the [Asia] Cup qualifiers. As we’re saying, we want to keep this team intact because every time we play, we will either grow from either the success or the failure that we’ll have,” Cone went on.

“We’re trying to make this a team and then grow it and get better and better and better and then hopefully reach our potential, sometime around year three or year four, and, [when] we’re qualifying for the Olympics through the World Cup.”

Cone identified local stars June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Scottie Thompson, Jamie Malonzo, Calvin Oftana, Chris Newsome, young Japan-based standouts Dwight Ramos, Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, varsity star Kevin Quiambao and naturalized ace Justin Brownlee as his players for the next four years—or a cycle leading up to the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup in Qatar and the Summer Olympic Games.

Large is inefficient

“The idea is that we use this first Fiba window with Hong Kong and Taiwan, we use our preparation time and that window to get to a certain level, and then bring that level into the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments to be able to play Latvia and Georgia and improve from there,” according to the decorated mentor. “Then use that to go into the next one, which will be New Zealand and Hong Kong here at home.”

Cone acknowledged that going with just a dozen players feels a bit rigid, but he pointed out that having a larger selection would be inefficient—especially for the leagues from which these players are going to be plucked from. “We didn’t want to put a big pool together. That takes more time. You know, the [Philippine Basketball Association] and the [varsity] leagues—they don’t want to stop their leagues for a month or two or three months for us to prepare … if we’re going to try doing that, there’s always going to be resistance from them in lending their players,” he said.

“If we can prove that we can do it with a short preparation time—a shorter preparation that is cumulative over time—then the stakeholders are gonna say, ‘Oh, yeah, we see that now. You know, we can bend our league around seven days of prep, or 10 days of prep for whatever.’”

Cone also understands that injuries can strike anytime, which is why he assured that he is agile enough to entertain changes as the campaign plods along.

“Eventually, we’ll have to make a tweak here or there. Ideally, it will be the same 12 guys for four years. But that’s, you know, that’s also kind of unrealistic,” he said. “Guys get older and guys get injured. So there will be some tweaks along the way. But the idea is to keep an intact core that understands a system [and] that’s not going to be, you know, varied all the time. If we change, we’ll have to start from zero,” he said. INQ



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