Loaded Gilas more worried about themselves than opponents

The quest for men's basketball gold starts Wednesday as hands-down favorite Gilas Pilipinas kicks off its bid against Singapore in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

Not even Typhoon "Tisoy" could stop Gilas from making its final preparation for the SEA Games.

"We looked at some video as a team against Singapore. I think they (Gilas players) have an idea of who they are first, that's the No. 1 thing," national coach Tim Cone said, whose team clashes with the Singaporeans at 8:15 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The American mentor explained that more than understanding what are the strengths and weaknesses of the Singaporeans, it is far more important for them to try "to be the best version of themselves."

"I'm less concerned about our opponent than about ourselves. If we have great focus and try to do the things that can help us as a team, in terms of defense and getting back and making sure we're at the same page, if we're doing that, I don't think anybody can beat us," stressed the 61-year-old Cone.

"We're just trying to be the best version of ourselves in the short window that we have, irrespective of who we are playing, which is kind of an old John Wooden philosophy."

Leaving nothing to chance, Cone has come up with a star-studded and veteran-laden national team poised to win the Philippines' 13th straight men's basketball gold medal at home soil.

Five-time PBA MVP and FIBA World Cup veteran June Mar Fajardo leads the Gilas side, which will also have fellow stars Japeth Aguilar, Troy Rosario, LA Tenorio and Kiefer Ravena, who is shooting for his fifth SEA Games gold.

Gilas depth is evident with the inclusion of Fil-American guard Stanley Pringle, shooters Matthew Wright and Marcio Lassiter, Fil-German big man Christian Standhardinger, along with first-time national players Chris Ross and Vic Manuel.

Greg Slaughter came in as the last member of the final 12, taking the spot of TNT gunner Roger Pogoy, who was dropped from the roster due to a bulging disc. Pogoy suffered the injury last week in their PBA Governors' Cup quarterfinal game versus Magnolia.

Cone held weekly practice sessions with Gilas starting last October through November, before stepping up its preparation with daily training last week.

Still, the two-time PBA grand slam champion coach is happy with the effort of the national players.

"We do have the technology to do that, to be a little cognizant of what the other teams are doing so we use that," shared Cone. "But because of the short window, it's just upon us to make sure our guys are all pointed in the same direction moving forward."

"That's more important than to find out what this team does on this screen, or what play this team runs. If we're fundamentally sound and we're playing defense off our athleticism, we're gonna stop teams," he added.

After Singapore, Gilas takes on Vietnam on Friday before closing the single-round eliminations versus Myanmar on Saturday.