For a change, the future of Gilas Pilipinas looks encouraging

In a stark departure from the past, the aftermath of a recent Gilas game did not ignite social media outrage. The national team’s head coach, once a target of scorn, now escapes ridicule during and after matches. The team has shed its reputation for employing an outdated system ill-suited for international competition.

What changed? Quite simply, they are now winning games. In the initial phase of the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, the Nationals exceeded expectations.

While anticipated to secure two victories, Gilas not only achieved this but did so with remarkable ease and dominance. Their offense flowed seamlessly, passes were sharp, and defense stood unwaveringly strong. Remarkably, all this was accomplished in just seven days of preparation time, despite missing key players like June Mar Fajardo and AJ Edu.

Tim Cone’s tenure at Gilas exemplifies the transformative power of reduced drama and unified commitment to a system. The collective happiness within the team translated into equal elation among fans.

“I think they all had a great time. It took a lot of work in Inspire Camp. We didn’t play well against Hong Kong in the first half and that kind of throws game jitters. But since that first half, we’ve played the way we envisioned in terms of being a defensive team first and sharing the ball, and having the big guy dominate for us,” said Cone.

Gilas exhibited significant improvements in their recent games, as evidenced by the numbers. The team’s dominant 94-64 victory over Hong Kong and impressive 106-53 win against Chinese Taipei showcased a positive shift in their performance. The 53-point triumph over Chinese Taipei marked Gilas’ largest margin of victory against a historically competitive opponent.

In these games, Gilas displayed exceptional teamwork with 33 assists on 37 field goals against Hong Kong and 30 assists on 36 field goals against Chinese Taipei. Their defensive prowess was equally commendable, holding their opponents to an average of just 58.5 points per game while limiting their shooting efficiency to 31.25% and forcing turnovers at a rate of 13.5 per game.

Key players like Kai Sotto excelled on both offense and defense, averaging impressive statistics of 15.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Justin Brownlee also showed signs of returning to form with contributions of 21 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists per game.

Young talents such as Carl Tamayo and Kevin Quiambao, alongside experienced players like CJ Perez, Chris Newsome, Dwight Ramos, and Scottie Thompson, added depth to the team’s roster.

While Gilas has shown promise in unleashing its full potential, Coach Cone remains cautious about setting overly optimistic expectations for the team’s future performances.

“Make no mistake: we have a long way to go. This was a pretty game tonight. We didn’t go out there to put on a show and show how good we are. We just wanted to go out there and work. It just turned out that way. But we also realize we have a lot of work ahead of us and a long way to go,” bared the PBA’s winningest mentor.

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