May 24, 2024

Gilas: Takeaways from first window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers

Gilas: Takeaways from first window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers
It was a great start for this iteration of Gilas Pilipinas. | Art by Mitzi Solano/One Sports

It is now truly the Tim Cone era for Gilas Pilipinas.

The first window of the 2025 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers showed glimpses of the national team’s full potential, giving fans something to feel giddy about having Gilas under someone widely-considered the GOAT of Philippine coaches.  

Even without injured June Mar Fajardo and AJ Edu, Gilas steamrolled its way to a window 1 sweep. Hong Kong and Chinese Taiepei didn’t stand a chance against what looked like a methodical, more disciplined team.

Here are some takeaways from the window that was:

Superman returns

Justin Brownlee is back.

After months of hiatus following a failed doping test during the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, Brownlee reported for duty and didn’t disappoint.

Fans enjoyed the Gilas hero doing Justin Brownlee things again. In two games, he averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.

The emergence of Kaiju

It’s the coming-out party for Kai Sotto.

Everyone knew his potential, but after two games under Cone, it seems like the Kaiju will be unleashed one way or another in the national team’s four-year roadmap.

It’s not that he hasn’t flexed his skills in a Gilas uniform before. But with Fajardo and Edu out, Sotto had no other recourse but to assert his might on the way to 15.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks statline.

Even Cone assured Sotto will dominate the region soon.

[RELATED STORY: Looks familiar: Kai Sotto emulates a June Mar Fajardo special in Gilas win in FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers]

Everybody shines

Without a ball-dominant player like Jordan Clarkson or Andray Blatche, Gilas looked more like a well-oiled European team.

And it’s pleasing to everyone’s eyes.

The Filipino dribblers shared the rock so well they averaged 31.5 assists per game.

Scottie Thompson thrived in such set-up. The former PBA MVP didn’t need to score to make his presence felt as he normed nine assists.

It’s a process

The dominant performances got everyone excited for the next windows, and rightfully so.

But fans should understand that while they revelled in the sweep of window 1, there will be disappointments along the way.

Remember, the Philippines would have to face New Zealand in the second window later in November. And Gilas has yet to beat the Tall Blacks.

Cone said it’s part of the grand design. After all, the ultimate goal is to punch a ticket to the Olympics, be it in Paris this year or in Los Angeles years from now.

Still, what a great start for Gilas’ Tim Cone era in a FIBA competition.