THE 27th edition of the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship may go down in history as the most unpredictable of all.
As many as eight to nine teams are being tipped as contenders for the Asian title as well as the three berths at stake for next year’s World Basketball Championship in Spain.
While defending champion China and Iran are considered the top favorites, the possibility of six others, including our very own Gilas Pilipinas, winning it all cannot be discounted as per the consensus of everybody present during the official luncheon of the biggest cage event in the region Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“The beauty and unpredictability of this Fiba-Asia is that any team can beat anybody on any given night,” acknowledged Philippine team coach Chot Reyes as he was joined in the podium by representatives of Jordan, Kazakhstan, Iran, and China.
Aside from the five present teams, also mentioned as top contenders are South Korea, Japan, Chinese-Taipei, and Qatar.
“At least eight teams have this desire to catch those three berths (in the world championships),” said Mehmed Becirovic, the Slovenian head coach of two-time champion Iran. “We have here a bunch of teams capable of winning the championship. Anyone can beat anyone.”
Added Reyes, “That shows you the enormity of the task at hand and the parity of the tournament.”
The Gilas coach has on his list at least nine teams which he said is capable of winning the championship.
“Not only has the Philippines had trouble with Jordan in the past, but also with China, Kazakhstan, and Iran,” said the Gilas coach as he recognized the presence of the four teams sitting on his side.
“Then you have Korea, Japan, Qatar, and even Chinese-Taipei. Ang sabi nga nila sa Tagalog, wala kang tulak kabigin. There’s not one easy game here.”
Jordan, runner-up to the Chinese in the 2011 edition of the meet in Wuhan, China, is parading practically a new team that boasts of eight new players and a new coach in Alexandris Evangelos of Greece in lieu of Tab Baldwin.
“We have eight players who are 22-years-old, but we’re still hoping to do a good job here in the Philippines,” said Jordanian team manager Zuhair Fuad Nassar.
“But all games will definitely be tough.”
Matteo Boniciolli, the Italian coach of Kazakhstan and the only team out of the 14 others seeing action in the tournament which managed to play an exhibition game against Gilas Pilipinas, believes the host country has a very good chance of landing one of three berths in the world cage meet following its 92-89 win over the Kazakhs last week.
“You’ve got very good players here, good quality of coaches here. The passion of the people for basketball here is unbelievable. There may be pressure, but pressure could be a great gas for (your) team, a great energizer,” the 51-year-old Italian said.