WHERE will the Philippines be grouped in the 2014 Fiba World Cup?
That question will be answered soon as Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes has embarked on a long trip to Spain to witness for himself the World Cup draw set on February 3 at the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona.
The Philippines, which punched its ticket to the World Cup by finishing second in the last Fiba-Asia championship, will be one of 24 teams that will be bracketed into four groups of six for the preliminary round.
Local fans, of course, have inevitably been wishing to see Gilas grouped with defending champion United States, which will be fielding a team from a pool of NBA superstars led by Miami star LeBron James.
So, is Gilas looking forward to being in the same group as the American idols?
While admitting that playing against the United States will be "good" for the team, Reyes said he is not thinking much about the draw as he is more focused on forming and preparing the team for the worlds.
“It doesn’t matter,” Reyes said, referring to the bracket. “It’s good to be bracketed with the US para makalaban natin … Pero hindi ko na iniisip ‘yun. Ang iniisip ko, sana may team na ako.”
“My thoughts now is to have a team. I hope that we will have a well-prepared team,” said Reyes, who had successfully lobbied for the shortening of the PBA season to give the team ample time to prepare for the World Cup as well as the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Avoiding the so-called ‘Group of Death’ and ending up in a group with lighter teams will also be favorable for Gilas, which has set a target of advancing past the preliminaries, he added.
When asked by Spin.ph if he would prefer being bracketed with the United States or be in a lighter group, Rain or Shine sharp-shooter Jeff Chan carefully weighed the pros and cons.
“Mahirap ‘yung tanong na ‘yun ah,” Chan said. “Kasi parang once in a blue moon mo lang makakalaban ‘yung US, ‘yung mga idols mo. Pero at the same time, gusto mong manalo. Kung ‘yung bracket medyo mahina, may chance tayo mag-advance.”
After a long pause, the Gilas gunner continued.
“Siguro mas pipiliin ko ‘yung maka-advance tayo para ‘yung (world) ranking natin tumaas,” Chan said.
Given a choice, Talk ‘N Text forward Ranidel De Ocampo is all for being grouped with the United States and even the Pau Gasol-led host team, so the whole world can see the Philippine brand of basketball.
“Okay ‘yun kasi magkakaroon tayo ng chance na mapanood sa buong mundo. Kasi kung US man ‘yan o Spain, ‘yan ang panonoorin sa buong mundo kasi ‘yun ang malakas na team,” said De Ocampo.
"Makikita tayo sa buong mundo. Kung binigyan natin ng magandang laro, mas maganda," he added.
Even if Gilas is grouped in a tougher bracket, De Ocampo is optimistic the Philippines will still have a shot at advancing to the next round.
“Hindi mo masabi ‘yung next round, baka mas may chance pa tayo,” said De Ocampo.