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MVP’s swan song?

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Sports patron Manny V. Pangilinan will soon step down as president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), but before it happens, there is one important thing he wants to see – and that is for Gilas Pilipinas to play in this year’s Rio Olympics.

The national team – headed by coach Tab Baldwin – will shoot for an Olympic spot via the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), which the country will host July 5-10 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.

“I’m always an idealist, I’d say we have a good chance on winning,” Pangilinan, whose term will end later this year, said yesterday during a press briefing held at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City.

“There is no doubt that the Gilas Pilipinas team will face quite formidable teams out there. So we have to fill in the best players available,” added Pangilinan, who started bankrolling the national team since forming the Smart Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA-Asia Championship in 2011.

Aside from the Philippines, the other OQTs will be held in Italy and Serbia.

The national team is in Group B of the OQT here with France and New Zealand, while in Group A are Turkey, Canada and Senegal. Only the champion team in each OQT will earn a spot in the Olympics this August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The last time a Philippine basketball team played in the Olympics was during the 1972 Munich Games.

The closest the country got in making it to the Olympics was when Gilas Pilipinas made it to the finals of the Asian championship last year in Changsha, China but the Nationals lost to the host team in the gold medal game.

Baldwin is conducting his Monday practice sessions with the rest of the national team training pool composed of PBA players, although the training camp will be in full swing in late May or early June after the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

Al Panlilio, the CEO of the OQT’s Local Organizing Committee (LOC), on the other hand, announced that tickets would be available on April 26 via online and at the MOA ticket booths.

Ticket prices in the first round elimination where Gilas Pilipinas will play is set at P10,000 for VIP section, P8,500 patron, P6,800 lower box, P400 upper box and P200 for General Admission. The prices will increase in the VIP, patron and lower box in the semifinals and finals.