WORLD power China and defending champion Lebanon are two of the top contenders awaiting the winner of the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) championship in Group A of the Fiba-Asia Cup this September.
The Chinese and Lebanese found themselves bracketed together after the drawing of lots held in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday. Joining them in the so-called Group of Death are Macau and the qualifiers of both Seaba and the Central Asia Basketball Association (CABA).
The Seaba tournament will be held from July 3-7 in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with the Smart Gilas-Pilipinas team selection of coach Jong Uichico favored to romp away the title.
Bunched in Group B are former two-time Fiba-Asia men’s champion Iran, Chinese-Taipei, inaugural Fiba-Asia Cup winner Qatar, Japan, and the qualifier from the South Asia Basketball Association (Saba) championship slated in New Delhi, India from July 24-26.
“The draw promises some great competition,” newly elected Fiba-Asia secretary general Hagop Khajirian was quoted as saying in the Fiba-Asia website after he personally supervised the drawing of lots in the Japanese capital.
Unless a major upset happens in Chiang Mai, the Smart Gilas-Pilipinas team of Chot Reyes will represent Southeast Asia in the September 14-22 meet otherwise known as the Stankovic Cup.
Team manager Butch Antonio said the Japan stint is one of the international tournaments in the radar of the Smart Gilas program as part of the national team’s buildup for the Fiba-Asia men’s championship next year.
The top two teams in the Fiba Asia Cup actually earn outright slots in the Fiba-Asia men’s championship.