Cone not taking Hong Kong for granted
Published on February 21, 2024

There won’t be a Dirty Dozen to take on home team Hong Kong on Thursday, Feb. 22, in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers. Instead Gilas Pilipinas will be coming out for the first window of the continental event with Eleven Man Standing.

Tim Cone, the Gilas coach, grapples with the handicap but doesn’t mind, choosing to just deal with it.

“You think about it. That’s six-eleven and six-ten that we won’t have,” Cone said Monday before Gilas’ public workout at the Philsports Arena in Pasig. “But these are the things that happen in any basketball team. You have injuries … and these kinds of things happen all the time. You just have to roll with the punches and continue to deal with [them].”

Missing from the Gilas roster and leaving huge voids in the middle are seven-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo (calf) and Cypriot-born AJ Edu (knee), who are both nursing injuries.

Stepping in for an extended tour of duty with the national team is 6-foot-9 Barangay Ginebra San Miguel forward Japeth Aguilar, giving the frontline added aggressiveness, athleticism and defensive presence in lieu of the two injured bigs and in complement with 7-foot-3 Kai Sotto and 6-foot-6 Carl Tamayo.

Leading Gilas back to the international stage after its victorious conquest in the Hangzhou Asian Games last year is naturalized player Justin Brownlee, the hero of the miracle semifinal win against China. Joining him and Aguilar are Scottie Thompson and Jamie Malonzo of Brgy. Ginebra, Meralco’s Chris Newsome, TNT’s Calvin Oftana, San Miguel Beer’s CJ Perez, Japan B.League Asian import Dwight Ramos, and UAAP star Kevin Quiambao.

Come game time at the Tsuen Wan Stadium, Hong Kong will be without two outstanding players as well in Choi Kwan Tsai and Shiu Wah Leung, who are also on the injury list. 

But a familiar face will be staring Gilas in the eye — Canadian Duncan Reid, a key component for the Bay Area Dragons, who competed as a guest team in the 2022-23 PBA Commissioner’s Cup and dragged Barangay Ginebra to a nerve-fraying Game 7 in the Finals.

Reid has been a centerpiece of the Hong Kong national team since 2013, leading the charge for the former British territory during the FIBA Asia Championship at the SM MOA Arena in Pasay City.

Backing up Reid are So Chi Lok, Leung Shiu Wah, Hon Tin Chi, Ricky Yang, Tam Tsz Kin, Yeung Siu Hung, Wong Tsz Him, Oliver Xu, Tsoi Lung Tak, Liu Kwan Ho and Chang Hiu Fung.

Despite the Philippines’ stamp of dominance over Hong Kong in previous encounters, Cone is not about to write off their first assignment in the bid to make it back to the FIBA World Cup and the Olympics.

“We just don’t want to be a team that takes anything for granted.  We haven’t been together long enough,” Cone told SBP.Ph on Wednesday.

“Our focus here is to go out and play the best we can, move the ball, move the bodies and play the heck out of the defense. Then we’ll look up and check out the score at the end of the game.”