BARCELONA – While convinced there is no such thing as a weak bracket in the coming Fiba-World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes is still keeping his fingers crossed the Philippines will land in the group where it could be competitive enough to advance past the opening round.
Reyes leads a three-man Philippine delegation attending the Fiba draw on Monday (Tuesday morning, Manila time) to determine the groupings of the 24 teams seeing action in the August 30 to September 14 cagefest to be held in four Spanish cities.
The flamboyant Gilas coach arrived here on Saturday afternoon together with team manager Aboy Castro and logistics director Andrew Teh after a 17-hour journey from Manila via Dubai.
Immediately, Reyes and Co. got first hand information about the four wildcard entries approved by the Fiba Central Board, which conspicuously didn’t include China and Russia, bronze medalist in the London Olympics, both of which were considered shoo-ins for the tournament but reportedly withdrew at the last minute from of the 15-country list.
Picked to join the 20 early qualifiers in the tournament proper were 2016 Olympic host Brazil, Greece, Turkey, and Finland.
Other prominent basketball powers missing in the tournament are No. 14 Germany, No. 21 Italy, and No. 25 Canada.
Shortly after the draw, Reyes will inspect the training, competition, and housing facilities in the city where Gilas is playing.
“We'll be visiting four Spanish cities in five days,” said Reyes. “This is a working trip.”
Fiba limited each continent to three wildcards, with Europe reaching the limit.
Greece is ranked No. 5 in the Fiba world rankings, Turkey at No. 7, and Finland No. 39, while Turkey hosted the 2010 World Cup.
No confirmation has been made by the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) about the country’s absence from the Fiba list, although it is widely rumored national coach Panagiotis Giannakis was relieved after China failed to enter the Final Four of the Fiba-Asia Championship with the Greek at the helm in Manila last year.
The 24 countries playing in the World Cup are No. 1 US, No. 2 Spain, No. 3 Argentina, No. 4 Lithuania, No. 5 Greece, No. 7 Turkey, No. 8 France, No. 9 Australia, No. 10 Brazil, No. 11 Serbia, No. 13 Slovenia, and No. 15 Angola.
Completing the cast are No. 16 Croatia, No. 17 Puerto Rico, No. 19 New Zealand, No. 20 Iran, No. 24 Mexico, No. 26 Dominican Republic, No. 31 Korea, No. 34 Philippines, No. 39 Finland, No. 41 Senegal, No. 45 Ukraine and No. 46 Egypt.
Reyes said he will also check out the facilities in Vitoria, a city about a 3 1/2-hour car ride from Madrid, which Spanish coach Nacho Lezcano has suggested to Gilas as its training base.
“We also want to re-establish our network of connections with coaches, scouts and of course, Fiba officials. We will extend the best wishes of (SBP president) Mr. (Manny) Pangilinan to Fiba president Yvan Mainini, Fiba secretary-general Patrick Baumann and Fiba-Asia secretary-general Hagop Khajirian.
“There is a lot of excited talk about the success of Manila hosting the Fiba-Asia Championships last year and this has brought about Mr. Baumann's invitation to Mr. MVP for Manila to host a masters leg and perhaps, even the finals of the Fiba World 3x3 this year. We are also hoping to host the next Fiba-Asia qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics.”
Reyes, Castro, and Teh will be back in Manila on Friday.