Powerhouse teams France, Canada join Gilas in Manila qualifier
France and Canada, two powerhouse teams bannered by a slew of NBA stars will be coming to Manila for the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July.
Turkey, which finished second to United States in the 2010 Fiba World Championships, Senegal and New Zealand were also drawn to play in the basketball capital.
France and New Zealand joined Gilas Pilipinas will play each other in the preliminary round after being drawn in Group B while Turkey, Senegal and Canada, which boasts eight players currently playing in the NBA led by rising star Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves, are in Group A.
The top two teams in the preliminaries will advance in the knockout semifinals with the winners disputing the lone ticket to the Rio Olympics.
The other two qualifiers will be held in Belgrade, Serbia and Turin, Italy.
Angola, Japan, Puerto Rico, Czech Republic and Latvia will play in Serbia while Greece, Mexico, Iran, Tunisia and Croatia joined Italy.
The qualifying tournament will run from July 5 to 10. The preliminary round will be held on the first three days before the tournament goes on a one-day break on July 8. It resumes on July 9 for the KO semis and culminates the day after with the finals.
Both France, which features six players currently suiting up in the NBA led by four-time champion Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, and Canada wound up with bronze medals in the Fiba EuroBasket and Fiba Americas, respectively.
Also part of France’s formidable roster are NBA veteran Nicolas Batum of the Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz’s 7-foot-1 center Rudy Gobert.
Apart from Wiggins, the 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year, Canada also flaunts the likes of Boston Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk, Toronto Raptors point guard Cory Joseph and Cleveland Cavaliers’ rebounding demon Tristan Thompson. Thompson missed Canada’s campaign in the Fiba Americas last September as he was reportedly settling a contract dispute with the Cavs during that time.
Gilas aims to field the best team possible led by former NBA veteran Andray Blatche, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva and possibly Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, who assured his willingness to help the country make its first trip to the Olympics since 1972.