Gilas to play European friendlies ahead of Olympics qualifier tilt

Gilas to play European friendlies ahead of Olympics qualifier tilt

Gilas to play European friendlies ahead of Olympics qualifier tilt

COACH Tim Cone’s 11-strong Gilas Pilipinas believes getting a taste of Euro basketball is critical in its chase for a coveted Paris Olympics seat.

That’s why the Nationals very much welcome the opportunity to play tough sides Turkey and Poland in separate friendlies in the coming days to gauge themselves and feel the kind of competition up ahead in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

“We got a lot of work to do but we got time,” said Mr. Cone, whose team arrived in Istanbul yesterday for the next phase of their buildup for the July 2 to 7 OQT in Latvia against the hosts Latvian and Georgia.

“That’s the whole idea why we’re playing now, why we’re playing friendlies in Turkey and Poland. Hopefully, we’ll just continue to get better and better and better as we move forward.”

Gilas first faces the No. 24 Turkish Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Besiktas Akatlar Culture and Sports Complex in Istanbul (1 a.m. Friday in Manila). From here, they will head over to Poland to battle the 15th-ranked Polish on June 30.

“I think it’s great for our preparation for Latvia and Georgia and whoever we may meet in the (KO rounds of the) Qualifiers. It’s going to be a test and kind of measure what we have,” said naturalized player Justin Brownlee.

“I love it (Euro friendlies). Poland is No. 15 in the world, so they’ll give us a really good feel. And Turkey’s No. 24 but they’re much better; they have NBA guys, I don’t know if they’re going to show up,” said Mr. Cone.

“Poland is preparing for the OQT in Valencia (Spain). Turkey is preparing for the Euro Qualifiers so they may have their full team there. We’ll see. It should be a great indication of where we are by the time we get to Riga. That’s the idea,” he added.

The multi-titled mentor expects the two friendlies to further sharpen his wards, who were far from ideal when they previously defeated the Taiwan Mustangs, 74-64, in Monday’s tuneup game at the PhilSports Arena.

“I hope to see improvement, see us get better on both sides of the ball,” said Mr. Cone.

“You saw it (against the Mustangs). We didn’t play as sharp as we wanted. But again, we had a two-hour practice in the morning of the game and twice a day practices for the last three days. So these guys had no rest, no break and they came to play. So I think if they get fresher legs, they’ll play better.” — Olmin Leyba

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