SBP, with PBA help, to take best shot at Tokyo berth
It’s a long shot, but the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) wants to make the most out of the opportunity.
The country’s national federation for basketball said in a statement it wants to form its A-team for the Olympic qualifying tournament (OQT) after receiving a wild card berth late Friday night—an unexpected turn of events triggered by the pullout of New Zealand from the event slated in Belgrade, Serbia.
Two PBA stars also said the Philippines should assemble its best squad for the OQT, which will give the tournament winner a ticket to this year’s Tokyo Olympics.
On Saturday, the PBA said it was willing to help, saying it will need to tinker with its calendar to accommodate the SBP’s wishes.
“If we open the season in April, we will either be at the tailend of the [Philippine Cup] or about to begin the [Commissioner’s Cup],” PBA chief Willie Marcial told the Inquirer in Filipino.
The PBA has pegged April 9 as its target opening for the 46th season. The Belgrade OQT will run from June 29 to July 4. “Nothing’s definite as of this moment,” Marcial added. “One thing is for sure, though, we will be supporting the SBP no matter what. We’ll just have to figure out the best possible way how.”
But even sending the best Gilas Pilipinas team might not quite cut it out. Each OQT staging will hand out just one ticket to the Olympics. The Philippines, ranked 31st in the world, will be joined by four teams ranked in the top 20, including World No. 6 and host Serbia and No. 12 Italy. Those two teams whipped the Philippines in the 2019 World Cup in China. Italy hammered out a 108-62 victory while Serbia forged a 126-67 rout made memorable by Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic’s comments that the Philippines had no business playing against top-flight European squads.
“Obviously, you’re missing quality, and the result of these two games [against European teams] showed that,” Djordjevic said then. “I think you (Filipinos) showed some balance and quickness. But two European top teams (Italy and Serbia) who know how to play tough, physical basketball [give you] results to think about (for the future).”Guest team
Nevertheless, two of the country’s top pros believe the SBP should send its best to Belgrade.
Kiefer Ravena, the skipper of the young crew being sent to the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) Asia Cup qualifying windows, said in a radio interview with former PBA chief Noli Eala that “we really have to grab this [chance]. I think that is the mindset that we should have.”
Chris Ross, who once suited up for Gilas during the Southeast Asian Games suggested on Twitter that the basketball leadership “should get the guys from the PBA they want to be in the Final 12,” and even proposing that the final team compete as a guest squad in the PBA for its buildup for the OQT.
The Tall Blacks pulled out of the OQT due to the pandemic, prompting Fiba to tap the Philippines as a replacement for the 24-nation meet that will be held across four location.
“We may have not been able to make it the last time, but we were still given a slot,” said Ravena.
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