GILAS Pilipinas will not reassemble until June to brace for a rocky European journey in the Paris Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) but this early, the roadmap has been laid with hopes of fulfilling it in style.

Head coach Tim Cone said a bevy of European powers like the Luka Doncic-led Slovenia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have invited the Philippine team for OQT preparations, the gateway to the Summer Olympics in Paris.

“We’re gonna work our way through those and see what we can do,” said Mr. Cone after Gilas’ perfect 2-0 start in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers that will not have its second window until November.

The encounter with the said squads should serve as handy for Gilas, which will be up in Group A of the six-team OQT against Georgia and rising powerhouse Latvia, now the world No. 8 team that came off a remarkable fifth-place Cinderella run in the FIBA World Cup held in Manila last year.

Latvia also stunned Spain in the FIBA EuroBasket qualifiers last week, 79-75, while Brazil, Cameroon and Montenegro are other teams in Group B of the OQT slated on July 2-7 in Riga, Latvia with only the top team advancing to Paris.

Three more OQT legs participated by 18 squads are up in Spain, Greece and Puerto Rico to complete the final four tickets in the 12-team Paris basketball cast, led by host France, reigning Olympic gold medalist USA, World Cup champion Germany, Serbia, Australia, Canada, South Sudan and Japan.

But there’s a catch for Gilas, which will only have 10 days to spare if it pushes with the plan of testing mettle against European teams led by world No. 10 Lithuania and No. 11 Slovenia before the OQT.

Mr. Cone said the rigid schedule has been the consensus agreement as his crew plays in different leagues and the challenge is to make it work — explaining the reason for his 12-man core for every tournament for continuity purposes.

“This 2-0 start (in FIBA Asia Cup) is great but that’s a little, baby step on the way. We need to make a lot bigger strides. We’ve got Latvia and Georgia coming up so, can we get to that level?” clarified Mr. Cone.

“That’s gonna answer more questions for us.” — John Bryan Ulanday