By REY C. LACHICA
1:30 p.m. – Philippines vs Bahrain
HANGZHOU, China – Forget about the mishandling of the Gilas Pilipinas’ lineup back home, it’s now time to get real.
The Nationals arrived in this modern city on Sunday in high spirits despite the difficulty of coach Tim Cone to assemble a what could be a “dream team” after four players on his original list were denied by the organizing committee.
But enough of that as Cone has a big mission to accomplish in the 19th Asian Games that will start with the team’s opening game with Bahrain at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Several hours after settling down at a posh Park Hyatt Hotel – they opted not to stay in the Athletes Village to fully focus on the task at hand – the Nationals went to a nearby gym in order for “newcomers” like Kevin Alas, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, CJ Perez and Arvin Tolentino to have a clearer understanding of Cone’s system.
All of them, including the holdovers of the team that saw action in the recent FIBA World Cup have two common goals.
First, they are sacrificing a lot of to help restore the country’s lost glory in the region — with the last PH team to win an Asian Games gold was during the 1962 edition.
Secondly, they all want to help Cone redeem himself from a shocking defeat at the hand of the Koreans during the 1998 edition in Bangkok, Thailand.
So devastating was the defeat it haunts Cone from time to time.
“We really thought that we had a shot at the gold, and only to come up with the bronze was really a huge disappointment,” said Cone prior to the team’s departure.
But Cone is not looking far ahead as he wants to leave an impression after their game against Bahrain.
Completing Cone’s version of Magnificent 12 are Scottie Thompson, Calvin Oftana, Chris Newsome, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, and naturalized players Justin Brownlee and Ange Kouame.
After Bahrain, Gilas will face Thailand on Wednesday and the dangerous Jordan on Saturday to cap its group phase assignments.
Of the three countries, the team is expected to encounter rough sailing against Jordan which is bannered by former TNT import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.