The real test begins for Gilas Pilipinas on Tuesday as it makes its highly-anticipated debut in the 19th Asian Games. It will be a formidable battle for coach Tim Cone and the Philippine team.
The all-pro unit is set to take on Bahrain, a team that Cone describes as a ‘challenge,’ especially considering the major adversities they have faced in the last two weeks leading up to the continental showpiece.
“I think they are going to be a challenge out there,” said the most accomplished coach in PBA history, referring to Bahrain.
The match is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Zijingang University inside Zhejiang University.
For the national team, it’s business as usual despite not having heard a word yet from the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (HAGOC) regarding the fate of late inclusions Kevin Alas, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Mo Tautuaa, and CJ Perez.
Gilas had a film viewing session on Monday and then held practice at the Dongzan Arena Olympic Sports Shop for the second consecutive time since arriving on Sunday.
Bahrain, which joins the Philippines, Thailand, and Jordan in Group C, is coming off a rousing campaign in the FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament in Damascus, Syria last month where it emerged undefeated in five matches.
As the champion of the tournament, Bahrain became the first country to secure a berth in the Qualifying Tournament for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Notably, former PBA import Dwayne Chism is leading Bahrain’s campaign, along with Mustafa Rashed and Muzamil Ameer Hamooda.
All of these factors are not lost on Cone and his coaching staff.
“They are going to pose some problems because they shoot the ball really well and put a lot of pressure out there. They are not a big team, which is unusual for a Middle East team,” noted the Gilas mentor. “Usually, Middle East teams are really big, but they (Bahrain) are a little different, as they are quick and they can shoot.”
Following the Bahrain match, Thailand, led by Tyler Lamb, and Jordan, led by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, are up next for Gilas.