GILAS Pilipinas and the country's basketball fans await with bated breath as Fiba conducts the draw for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday (1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Manila time) at the Fiba House of Basketball in Mies, Switzerland.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios will be representing the Philippines in the proceedings, which will situate the 18 participating countries in the three qualifying tournaments to be hosted by Manila, Turin (Italy) and Belgrade (Serbia) - each one staking a place in the Rio Olympics.
The ceremonies can be viewed live though Fiba's official YouTube channel.
The 18 participating countries are broken down into eight from Europe (France, Serbia, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Latvia and Czech Republic), three from Asia (Philippines, Iran and Japan), three from the Americas (Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada), three from Africa (Angola, Tunisia and Senegal) and New Zealand from Oceania.
Although Fiba has yet to announce the conduct of the proceedings, Barrios said the SBP expects a modified draw that will put geographical and quality principles into play.
Under that premise, the SBP, Barrios added, expects Gilas to face at least two European countries laden with NBA players in the Manila qualifiers to be staged from July 4-10 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In the same breath, Barrrios doesn't expect another Asian country other than host Philippines to play in Manila.
"We are not informed at the moment of how the draw will be conducted but we understand it will be a modified draw based on geographical and quality principles," said Barrios, who left Manila for Geneva via Abu Dhabi on Monday morning and will be back Thursday night.
"Since Turin and Belgrade will host two of the three tournaments, that means there will be six European countries left to be drawn. We are expecting at least two European countries to be drawn in our group. Fiba will not want to overload a group with countries from the same zone.
"For instance, we don't expect either Iran or Japan to be in our group."
Regardless of the result of the draw, Barrios said Filipino fans can expect a rare and golden opportunity to witness world-class competition in the Olympic qualifier.
"This won't be an exhibition or a tune-up or a pocket tournament," said Barrios, who is set to confer with Fiba director of events Predrag Bogosevljev on matters relating to the Manila tournament while in Mies.
"This is an important competition where a ticket to the Olympics is at stake. My view is the Olympic qualifier is at the level of the World Cup that Manila hosted in 1978.
"The Philippines has played in only one Olympic qualifier ever and that was in 1964 in Yokohama. We didn't make it to the Tokyo Olympics but this time, it will be different because we'll be hosting.
"The Olympic qualifier is a tougher challenge than the FIBA Asia Championships where we finished second in Changsha last year. But while our chances may be slim to win it, remember we've got our Sixth Man, the world's Most Valuable Fans and that advantage could tilt the balance."