THE 2013 Fiba-Asia Championship is a great opportunity for the Philippines to secure a return trip to basketball’s world championships next year.
This was the assessment of former national coach Rajko Toroman, who believes homecourt advantage and China's waning dominance in Asian basketball could enhance Gilas Pilipinas’ chance of making it to the 2014 Fiba World Cup.
The top three teams in the tournament, which Manila will host for the first time in four decades, will advance to next year’s world championship to be played in Spain.
“It’s a great opportunity to go to the world championship,” said Toroman after the Barako Bull’s tune-up game against San Miguel Beermen on Wednesday at the Ronac gym in San Juan.
The Philippines secured the hosting of the Asian basketball championship due to tension in Lebanon, the original choice of Fiba-Asia to host the event. The matches will be held mainly at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Gilas Pilipinas returning to the world championships for the first time since making it as a host in 1978 is attainable, Toroman said.
“Usually, the host team has some advantage … It will be 20,000 people and homecourt. This is the reason why it is very important to own that,” added Toroman, who led Iran's national team to the Olympics and is now part of the coaching staff of the Barako Bull in the PBA.
Toroman also thinks that China can be beaten in Asia especially now that former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming has retired.
The Chinese have lost a little of their invincibility after winning by just a point against Jordan in the 2011 Fiba-Asia Championships in front of home fans in Wuhan. In that same edition, the Serbian coach steered the original Gilas Pilipinas to a fourth-place finish, the best since 1987.
“I think China will not have a strong team (outside) China. A few times, they were just hosting and they were first but last year, Jordan gave them a hard time. China is beatable without Yao Ming. There are teams like Jordan and Lebanon. But still, it’s a big chance (for us) to make it to the top three,” said Toroman.