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TARGET: DOMINICANS | Gilas start preparing for Dominican Republic

KARL-ANTHONY Towns will be a match-up problem for Gilas Pilipinas' big men. | EZRA SHAW/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The long and difficult quest for glory had formally kicked off as Gilas Pilipinas deployed Tim Cone to scout the Dominican Republic with less than a week before the opening of the FIBA Basketball World Cup at the Philippine
Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Gilas head coach Chot Reyes revealed the scouting mission, saying that Cone is in the Spanish city of Granada to take a closer look at the Dominicans, who are bannered by three-time National Basketball Association
All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns.

Cone, the most successful mentor in Philippine Basketball Association history, was at ringside when Towns erupted for 20 points, six rebounds and two assists in the Dominicans’ very impressive 94-88 win over Canada in a friendly match over the weekend.

Although the Canadians lost NBA champion Jamal Murray, they are still a force to be reckoned with as they still have the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, RJ Barrett, Dillon Brooks and Lu Dort, who topscored with
13 points.

Reyes said the Dominicans will be tough nuts to crack despite the absence of Chris Duarte of the Sacramento Kings and Al Horford of the Boston Celtics.

After all, aside from Towns, they still have Lester Quiñones, the Most Improved Player in the NBA G League, as well as Justin Minaya, who last played for the Portland Trail Blazers.

“Dominican Republic has very established players with a couple of NBA players on its roster,” Reyes said, adding that they are focused on pulling off a shocking victory over their group play foes in the Dominicans, Angolans and Italians.

“Italy released their lineup as well, same thing with Angola. Those are very, very strong teams. I’m no longer thinking what percentage we are, what grading we are. The whole team is just focusing now on what needs to be done to give us a chance
of pulling off a victory.”

Reyes added that Cone is working on a very comprehensive scouting report as part of their plan of pulling off an earth-shaking upset that will give them a handsome chance to emerge as the best-performing Asian team that will earn a slot in the Paris Olympics.

“We’re doing the nitty-gritty of compiling the Dominican Republic profiles, how they like to run on offense, how they like to defend and the same thing with Angola as well,” Reyes added.

But the Filipinos are coming up with an impressive performance so far.

With everybody now on board, including NBA standout Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto, Gilas dominated Ivory Coast, 85-62, in a friendly match late Saturday.

Although sideliners believe that the win over Ivorians is a massive morale-booster when Gilas battle Angola in the preliminaries, Reyes stressed that they will not be complacent as the Angolans who will be seeing action in the prestigious 32-nation event is different from
the side that Gilas nearly beat in the previous World Cup in 2019, 81-84.

“Angola plays tough defense. They really pressured the basketball,” Reyes said, referring to the African powerhouse that opened its friendly series with a 66-61 win over Venezuela before slumping with four straight setbacks, including a 76-78 decision to Mexico.

Gilas will be facing Mexico in another closed-door exhibition match on Monday.

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