Gilas Pilipinas simply doesn’t want to see the 19th Asian Games gold medal being handed over to the champion team on a silver platter.
Head coach Tim Cone, faced with manpower problems, had brought up the possibility of withdrawing from the Asian Games but later changed his mind, according to newly-appointed Gilas team manager Alfrancis Chua.
“Coach Tim Cone asked the players the moment we’ve learned that the five players — Calvin Abueva, Terrence Romeo, Mo Tautuaa and Jason Perkins, plus Roger Pogoy, are already out. He asked them if they still want to play,” said newly-installed Gilas team manager Alfrancis Chua.
“He (Cone) was about to say, ‘let’s not join.’ But it was June Mar Fajardo who immediately answered and said he wants to play.”
Fajardo, the six-time Most Valuable Player and the best player in the Philippine Basketball Association the last decade, was backed by the other Gilas players.
“They all want to play. June Mar, Calvin (Oftana), Japeth and the rest of the guys, they all want to play. That’s where we are right now. We have four guys waiting and five guys being added. These guys they’re going to train and watch video sessions to learn even without knowing whether they will play or not,” Cone said.
Except for Cone, Aguilar and Fajardo, and last-minute substitute Marcio Lassiter, majority of the members of the Gilas team are first timers in the Asian Games, including naturalized player Justin Brownlee, Calvin Oftana, Chris Ross, Chris Newsome and CJ Perez.
Many of them were on the squad that regained the Southeast Asian Games cage gold in Cambodia last May.
Ange Kouame, the other naturalized player, is also another first-time participant in the Asian Games as well as Scottie Thompson and Kevin Alas.
Cone will be making his return to Asian Games cage competitions after a bronze medal finish in the 1998 Bangkok edition.
Still, forming a solid squad that can vie for a podium finish remains a big problem given the situation.
“We considered a few more names, we tried Troy Rosario, Don Trollano, Tony Semerad and even Maverick Ahanmisi, but it turned out that the Ahanmisi who was there was his brother, Jerrick,” Cone said.
“All those guys were there on the 60, but weren’t on the list of 37,” he said, referring to the long list submitted to Hangzhou organizers that was later trimmed to 37.