MANILA, Philippines - Smart Gilas Pilipinas leaves for Japan this afternoon with hopes of making an impact in the fourth FIBA Asia Cup the way it did in winning the Jones Cup in Taiwan last month.
LA Tenorio and the other PBA stars take another journey with the national team to gain more exposure in international play, departing Manila at 2:30 p.m. via a Philippine Airlines flight bound for Tokyo.
Smart Gilas kicks off its campaign in the Asia Cup against China at 4:30 p.m. Friday before going up against Lebanon Saturday then Uzbekistan and Macau in the next two days in the tough Asian meet where the nationals look to improve on the country’s fourth-place showing in 2010 in Beirut.
Another task for the Philippines in Tokyo is to make good in its presentation for possible hosting of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship that serves as the qualifier for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan, vice chairman Ricky Vargas, executive director Sonny Barrios, PBA commissioner Chito Salud and chairman Robert Non are among the Filipino cage officials going to the Japanese capital to show solid front in an effort to bring the Asian joust in Manila next year.
The 12-man FIBA Asia executive committee and women’s representative Noviantika Nasution of Indonesia will convene to decide the host country for next year's World Cup zone qualifier at the Grand Prince Hotel on Sept. 19.
PBA officials are hoping they could be of help.
"I intend to impress upon our leaders in FIBA-Asia that the PBA is one with the SBP in its quest to regain basketball supremacy here in Asia," said Salud. "Unequivocal is our support of SBP's quest to host the FIBA-Asia qualifying tournament here in 2013 and we want to make sure (FIBA-Asia) secretary-general Hagop Khajirian of Lebanon gets that message."
The country hosted the inaugural staging of the biennial meet in 1960 when it was still known as the Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) Championship. A five-time winner – second in the history of the event – the Philippine last hosted the cagefest in 1973.
By Sept. 19, the Asia Cup is to start its knockout stage involving eight teams.
Smart Gilas is likely to make it there, facing anyone from among the qualifiers from Group B composed of Iran, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Qatar and India.
The Nationals have sized up the Lebanese, the Iranians, the Japanese and the Taiwanese in the Jones Cup and have also seen the Qataris up-close in a tune-up match at the Ynares Arena in Pasig Sunday.
Pitching camp in the country before flying to Tokyo, the Qataris also faced the Barangay Ginebra Kings Monday in another tune-up abbreviated by a fight.
For the nationals, a fitting sendoff was a Senate resolution passed Monday, commending and honoring Team Phl for winning the Jones Cup.
On Monday night, they were also given special citation in the 19th PBA Press Corps Awards Night.
"This makes the players realize the impact of what we did," said national coach Chot Reyes. "This will spur us more to try bring honor to the country. Hopefully, we can also do well in Japan."