For the Philippines and four other Asian countries, there's a much-bigger prize to fight for in the Fiba World Cup--a chance to play in the Tokyo Olympics next year.
And local officials led by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio has entertained thoughts of the country making it with the luck of the draw.
Eight countries will represent Asia/Oceania in the 32-nation World Cup where the first round of competition is scheduled in eight different cities in China. Aside from host China, the seven qualifiers from the combined region are Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Iran, Japan, Jordan and the Philippines.
In qualifying for the Olympics, Australia and New Zealand will be reclassified under Oceania, leaving South Korea, Iran, Jordan, the Philippines and China to dispute the Asian ticket with host Japan assured of a slot.
The top Asian finisher in the World Cup will be awarded an outright berth in the Tokyo Games.
The top African, two Americas, two European, Oceania and Asian finisher in the World Cup will gain automatic entry into the Olympics.
The draw will play a role in determining how far certain countries go in the race for Olympic slots among contenders in the five FIBA zones.
Last night, FIBA conducted the draw that situated the 32 teams in eight groups of four for the first round of eliminations. Before the draw, the Philippines was assigned to Pot 6 with Canada, Montenegro and South Korea.
That meant Gilas will play the first round in one of four possible cities----Wuhan, Foshan, Nanjing and Dongguan. It also meant the Philippines will not be in the same bracket as Canada, Montenegro or South Korea.
Under the seeding process, the Philippines would be in a group with three of the following 11 countries----Serbia, Argentina, Lithuania, Greece, Russia, Brazil, Italy, Nigeria, Senegal, New Zealand and Angola.
The 12 countries which the Philippines will not face in the first round are China, US, Spain, France, Puerto Rico, Turkey, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Tunisia and Ivory Coast. The results of the draw were not known at presstime.
“Anything can happen,” said Panlilio.
“If we’re able to advance to the second round and the other five Asian countries, for some reason, don’t, then we go to the Olympics. A lot will depend on the luck of the draw. If the other five Asian countries land in groups where the opposition is formidable, they may not make it to the second round. In our case, we just have to be prepared to deal with the teams we’re drawn to play.”