MANILA – The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) called on the country’s basketball stakeholders to unite in supporting the Gilas Pilipinas as the organization tries to form a competitive squad for the FIBA World Cup in 2023.
The Philippines clinched a ticket to the World Cup as hosts of the biggest basketball tournament in the world in August next year.
However, the recent performance of Gilas in the international competitions raised eyebrows among many Filipino fans.
SBP president Al Panlilio admitted that the ninth-place finish of the team in the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup was disappointing, noting that this was the first time in 15 years that the Philippines missed the Top 8 in the competition.
He said the lack of training time and player availability have been the problem of the national team and should be addressed in the forthcoming competitions.
Gilas will be playing in three FIBA World Cup Asia qualifying windows lined up for August, November, and February; the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia on May 5-16, 2023; and the FIBA World Cup in August 2023.
While head coach Chot Reyes offered no excuse for the dismal showing, he noted that the outcome could have been different had Dwight Ramos and naturalized player Ange Kouame suited up for the team.
He said that Gilas only began practice last July 6, a week before the Philippines’ first game against Lebanon. Poy Erram, the only active PBA player on the roster on the other hand, attended only thrice.
“As FIBA secretary-general Andreas Zagklis mentioned, it’s been nearly 25 years since Greece hosted a world basketball event,” said Panlilio. “We really have to give it full support from all basketball stakeholders.”
For PBA chairman Ricky Vargas, the stakeholders should act together as the Philippines hosts the event for the first time in nearly five decades.
“The World Cup will never happen again in Manila in our lifetime… It took 45 years to bring the World Cup back to Manila. Dapat laban na, all out. We need the best to play and be allowed to play. We call on all stakeholders to unite for the flag and country,” Vargas added.
The SBP has scheduled a general meeting of stakeholders on August 1 where they will lay out the timetable in the run-up to the World Cup.
Panlilio said FIBA will assist in securing clearance for Gilas players from foreign leagues. The PBA will play only two conferences next year and clear its calendar starting in May up to the end of the World Cup.
Drafting players for the three upcoming windows, however, is a concern. Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson is sure to play in the World Cup and will likely join Gilas in the fourth window against Lebanon in Beirut on Aug. 25 and Saudi Arabia at the MOA Arena on Aug. 29.
He will not be available, however, for the next windows and the SEA Games. SBP will also try to reach out to Kai Sotto for Gilas’ international stints.
Meanwhile, the PBA Philippine Cup finals will begin on August 21, making some players from the 10 eliminated teams available for Gilas to play in the fourth window with Clarkson.
The fifth window in November will be a different story since the NBA, PBA, UAAP, NCAA and foreign leagues will be in season, making it difficult to assemble a fighting team.
In the sixth window, players from UAAP and NCAA will be available but not from the PBA.