(UPDATE) The Philippines will take New Zealand’s place at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, FIBA announced Friday, after New Zealand announced it was withdrawing from the competition.
The Serbia tournament will be from June 29 to July 4.
Al Panlilio, president of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, the sports national governing body, said “this is truly a welcome development.”
“We're very happy that Gilas Pilipinas Men will be given a chance to compete for a spot in the Olympics,” Panlilio said in a statement.
“Our Chairman Emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan had a conversation with Andreas Zagklis, Secretary General of FIBA, who informed him of the development and MVP was very pleased with the news.”
Panlilio said the SBP will “send the best team possible.”
“We will be coordinating with the PBA to plot our plans moving forward and we’re hopeful that Ange Kouame’s naturalization will be signed into law by then to give Gilas Pilipinas Men that added boost it needs to be more competitive,” the SBP boss added.
On its website, the New Zealand basketball federation cited "costs" behind its decision to back out of FIBA tournaments.
"Due to the spike in the number of high performance events and the costs of sending teams abroad, the Basketball New Zealand Board has made the difficult decision to withdraw the Tall Blacks from the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Serbia (already postponed from 2020) and the New Zealand men’s 3X3 team from the 2021 OQT in Austria," the organization said.
Because the Philippines, represented by the Gilas Pilipinas men's national team, is the highest-ranked Asian team that hasn't booked an Olympic berth, it will replace the Kiwis.
The Philippines will be bunched with the Dominican Republic and host Serbia in Group A, while Italy, Puerto Rico and Senegal make up Group B.
A crossover playoff will ensue between the two best teams from each group.
There are 3 other OQTs besides the one in Belgrade -- Kaunas, Lithuania; Victoria, Canada; and Split, Croatia.
The 4 teams that will top their respective OQTs will join the 12-team field at the Tokyo Games.
The winner of the Canada OQT will join Iran, France and the defending champion United States in Group A, while the countries that rule the Croatia and Serbia qualifiers will play Australia and Nigeria in Group B.
Group C is composed of Argentina, Japan, Spain and the team that emerges from the Lithuania OQT.