GILAS Pilipinas will be facing a slew of familiar faces, including a very controversial personality, when it competes in the preliminary round of the FIBA-World Cup in Spain later this year.
Following the official draw for the August 30 to September 14 meet early Tuesday morning (Manila time), the Philippines ended up bracketed in Group B along with world No. 3 Argentina, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Croatia, and Greece and will play games in the city of Seville.
And the grouping meant the Nationals will be facing former PBA import Renaldo Balkman, who played big in Puerto Rico’s runner-up finish in the Fiba-Americas behind champion Mexico.
Prior to his stint with the Puerto Rico team, Balkman suited up for Petron in last year’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup in a stint that proved short-lived as he was banned for life in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league following the infamous choking incident he had with teammate Arwind Santos.
Another familiar figure for Filipino basketball fans whom Gilas is likely to meet is Argentine Luis Scola, a recent Manila visitor who played for the Indiana Pacers during the historic NBA Global Games against the Houston Rockets at the Mall of Asia Arena.
But it remains undetermined whether Balkman and Scola will still be tapped to play for their respective countries during the meet.
Historically, Filipino cagers have once faced a few of the teams bracketed with them in Group B.
The country will be facing Argentina for the first time in the world stage since dropping a 90-111 decision during the 1974 edition of the meet held in Puerto Rico. Included in the Philippine team then were William ‘Bogs’ Adornado, Robert Jaworski, Manny Paner, and Ramon Fernandez.
When Croatia was still part of Yugoslavia, the Philippines also battled the eventual champion but lost in the end, 117-101, during the 1978 world tilt played in Manila.