Gilas plays tuneup matches before OQT

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Gilas Pilipinas waves to the crowd after the Filipinos’ win over Chinese Taipei in the Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

Chris Newsome, June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez, fresh off the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, will look to make good use of upcoming tuneup matches to gauge where Gilas Pilipinas stands against stiff opposition in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

Gilas is set to face Turkiye and Poland before the final phase of qualification for the Paris Olympics gets underway in Latvia on July 2, and coach Tim Cone said on Thursday that he hopes to make good use of those two OQT warmup matches.

“Playing against Turkey and Poland will give us an indication of what we will have to bring to Latvia and the OQT to be successful,” Cone told the Inquirer.

The Philippines will face host Latvia on July 2 and Georgia the following day in Riga, needing to win at one of those games in Group A to reach the semifinals.

But Gilas must top the Riga qualification to end the country’s 52-year wait to compete in the Summer Games.

Latvia made heads turn in last year’s World Cup when it made it to the quarterfinals behind guard Arturs Zagars and Italian coach Luca Banchi.

Before heading to Latvia, Gilas will train starting on Friday at Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, then face the Taiwan Mustangs of The Asian Tournament on Monday at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

The Mustangs are a team that includes ex-NBA players Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins and Quinn Cook, but there are reports that their availability for the Gilas face-off remains unsure.

Gilas flies to Europe the next day to hold those friendlies with Turkiye and Poland.

Expected to figure prominently in the OQT lead-up is Newsome, whose performance in the Philippine Cup Finals propelled the Meralco Bolts to their first PBA title.

Fajardo and Perez are part of the contingent, so is naturalized player Justin Brownlee, who is coming off a stint with Indonesian side Pelita Jaya in the Basketball Champions League Asia.



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Ginebra star Scottie Thompson, TNT’s Calvin Oftana, Japan B.League imports Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, KBL-based Carl Tamayo, La Salle’s Kevin Quiambao comprise the rest of the squad while Mason Amos and Japeth Aguilar are reportedly taking the place of injured players AJ Edu and Jamie Malonzo.





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