With the NBA and PBA seasons out of the way, Filipinos have now turned their attention towards Gilas Pilipinas’ attempt to qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.

Preparations are underway as the Philippines are hoping to pull off a successful FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) 2024 campaign, with Gilas giving their fans a treat through a 74-64 victory over the Taiwan Mustangs.

In what was billed as a sendoff game, Dwight Ramos and Justin Brownlee led the way and despite being an exhibition game, it was evident that Gilas Pilipinas took things seriously. The offense was flowing and players were putting their bodies on the line, and this type of effort was needed as they are set to embark on a grueling Euro trip.

Despite this, it was evident that Gilas was missing a few of their best players. It wasn’t so much that the Philippines’ performance dipped, but rather, the team wasn’t as complete as it could be.


Scottie Thompson, AJ Edu, and Jamie Malonzo did not see action against the Mustangs and will miss the OQT due to various injuries. Thompson reportedly has a bulging disk, while Edu and Malonzo are dealing with a torn meniscus and a torn left calf, respectively. Losing your best defender, playmaker, and top athlete at the most inopportune time is definitely tough, especially when a spot in the most prestigious basketball tournament is at stake.

Gilas Pilipinas can never shake off the manpower issues, although it’s unfortunately part of the game. It’s not uncommon to have a player miss the entire tournament and even the players in the lineups are not at 100 percent. However, Thompson’s injury was particularly painful not only because of his role with the team, but also because of the timing in all this.

Malonzo’s injury happened during the PBA season and the update on Edu’s status seemed to have come at the right time as Mason Amos and Japeth Aguilar were added as replacements. Word on Thompson’s injury, though, came at a time when visas for additional players might not make it in time. Moreover, plans to add Jordan Heading and Rhenz Abando didn’t materialize and who could blame them since they are committed to the Strong Group Athletics’ campaign for the 43rd William Jones Cup.

Eyebrows were raised when the Philippines submitted an 11-man roster for the OQT. Why not maximize a full Gilas lineup? If they’re worried about how players would feel if they get cut from the final lineup, then the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas should look at Chris Newsome, who didn’t let being left off Gilas Pilipinas’ 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup lineup prevent him from helping the team in any way he could.

Thankfully, Cone has never been one to throw around a flurry of excuses and instead buckles down to work. As the most accomplished coach in PBA history, the 66-year old has been used to making adjustments, whether it’s with the personnel available or the system he runs. Cone also has the attitude that could lift his team’s spirits up even during impossible situations.

Yes, the Philippines’’ chances to qualify for the 2024 Olympics through the OQT were slim even from the start, but it’s always good to put your best foot forward because you never know what life can throw at you. Gilas under Cone has always been at their best when they work as a group and when Brownlee is cooking. Thankfully, the 3-time PBA Best Import of the Conference is in fine form following his stint with the Pelita Jaya Basketball Club.

More importantly, Cone had stressed that this group was put together for the long run. So, the experience they can gain against some of the world’s best should help Gilas Pilipinas for the next FIBA World Cup qualifying window and in other international tournaments.

A Herculean task awaits Gilas Pilipinas when they head to Riga, Latvia for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024. Injuries to key players won’t do them any favors, but Tim Cone will nonetheless lead this team of young upstarts and wily veterans to what could be their biggest tournament yet.

There’s no theatrics to Cone’s approach, but the never say die spirit in Cone’s Barangay Ginebra teams is definitely being instilled in this team. So while the wins may be up in the air, there’s definitely no quit with Gilas.