Australia far from Chot Reyes' mind as Gilas coach focused on hurdling Seaba test
Gilas coach Chot Reyes points out the Philippines will have to top the Seaba championship to earn a place alongside Australia in the Asian qualifiers for the 2019 Fiba World Cup. Jerome Ascano

NOTHING has changed: Gilas Pilipinas will still have to rule the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship before advancing to Asian qualifiers for the 2019 Fiba World Cup.

Confusion arose after the Philippines was listed among the countries that already guaranteed a spot in the first round of the World Cup qualifiers, being drawn in Group B with Australia, Chinese Taipei, and Japan after the draw in Guangzhou on Sunday night.

But national coach Chot Reyes explained that Fiba just put the Philippines for the sake of putting a team in the spot that’s reserved for the Seaba champion.

“We’re just a place-holder,” Reyes said after practice on Monday morning. “Nilagay lang ang Philippines dun because in the Southeast Asian region, we are the top-ranked team, so nilagay tayo dun and the others in East Asia as well, yung mga Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei – those are all place-holders, those are the highest-ranked Fiba teams in that region.”

“Pero it should’ve really been not ‘Philippines’ ang nakalagay dun,” he added. “Dapat ang nakalagay dun ‘Seaba winner.’ I think that would’ve obviated the confusion ng mga tao. Kaya lang, para lang may bansang nandun talaga, nilagay muna nila tayo.”

[See Philippines grouped with powerhouse Australia in World Cup qualifiers]

Still, the prospect of being drawn with powerhouse Australia is a daunting task.

“It’s not the best (draw), but it’s not bad,” Reyes said. “But right now, we’re not thinking about it because we have to win this first, so I’m not putting much attention to it. We can do that after May 18 if we win this Seaba.”

Reyes said there are still five countries that have yet to qualify for the four-group Asian qualifiers.

“Yung West Asia, qualified na. tapos na lahat yung mga Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, that part of the world tapos na. It’s the East Asia na wala pa,” Reyes said. “I might be mistaken, but that’s China, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Taipei, I think yun yung ano dun sa part na yung ng Asia. Yung Oceania, sure na naman yung Australia at New Zealand.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos