Without batting an eyelash, Chot Reyes is confident that Gilas Pilipinas will go all the way to the semifinals of the 27th Fiba Asia Championship.
Beyond that, it’s going to be a tough call.
“To make it into the semifinals, I think we have a very good chance. After that, it’s anybody’s ballgame,” said Reyes during yesterday’s press conference at Mall of Asia Arena.
Reyes picked China, Iran, South Korea, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Japan, Qatar, Chinese Taipei and the Philippines as strong contenders for this year’s tournament, which offers three Asian slots to the 2014 Spain Fiba World Cup.
“Anyone of those teams can beat the other on any given night. Some teams will be more favored that the other, but every team must bring its best,” said Reyes. “Because if one team stumbles a little bit they’re going to get beat, and we’ve seen that so many times in the past.”
Bracketed in Group A, the Philippines faces Saudi Arabia on opening night tomorrow at Mall of Asia Arena before wrapping up the first round of the group stages against Jordan and Chinese Taipei on Friday and Saturday.
“There’s a lot of expectations playing in our home court, but I’d rather be playing at home than anywhere else,” said Reyes. “The bigger pressure will really come from these teams and we should be ready for them. This is the biggest challenge of our professional lives.”
Also present during the gathering were top officials of the organizing Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas headed by SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan and executive director Sonny Barrios, Fiba Asia secretary general Hagop Khajirian and television executives Wilson Tieng (Solar TV) and Noel Lorenzana (TV5).
Coaches and team managers from Iran, China, Jordan and Kazakhstan, who attended the press conference, agree that serious business begins in the quarterfinal phase.
“If you lose there, it’s done and there’s no chance of coming back,” said Iran coach Becirovic Mehmed, a Slovenian.
Defending champion China and Iran, winners of the 2007 and 2009 editions, are favored to forge another meeting in the finals.
“Anybody can beat anybody in the quarterfinals. We hope to do a good job here despite having eight new players in the team,” said Jordan team manager Zuhair Fuad Nassar.
With less than a week before the tournament, China retooled its lineup and welcomed seven-footer Wang Zhizhi, forward Zhu Fangyu and guard Guo Ailun back into the fold. They replaced veteran guard Liu Wei, Han Shuo and 7-foot-2 center Li Muhao.