THE Philippine youth team has found itself in the same group as two-time champion Iran after the draw for next month’s Fiba-Asia Under-18 Championship in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
In a draw ceremony held on Friday at the Mongolian Olympic Association office, the Energen Under-18 team of coach Olsen Racela ended up with the Iranians in Group D of the four-division tournament, where it will be joined by 2008 runner-up Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.
Iran emerged champion in 2008 and finished fourth place in 2010 after losing to Chinese-Taipei in the bronze medal match.
After its second place finish in 2008, Kazakhstan tumbled to 11th spot in 2010, while Saudi Arabia is ranked 15th among 16 countries during the same meet two years ago.
The Philippines, though, has a great chance of advancing to the second round as the top three teams in each group will make it to the next phase.
The top three teams in Group D will be bunched together with their counterparts in Group C to form Group F in the second round. Their win-loss records in the first round will be carried over, and the top four teams in the group round will clinch a seat in the quarterfinals.
The Philippine team, which earned a trip to the August 17 to 26 Fiba-Asia tournament by topping the Southeast Asia Basketball Association championship, is looking to improve its fifth-place finish in Yemen two years ago under coach Eric Altamirano.
Defending champion China landed in Group A with Hong Kong, Lebanon and India, while 2010 silver medalist Korea has been bracketed in Group B with Japan, Singapore and Syria.
Group C is composed of 2010 bronze medalist Chinese-Taipei, Indonesia, Bahrain and Mongolia.
The top three teams in the event will qualify for the 2013 FIBA U19 Championship in Czech Republic.