By Jonas Terrado
Gabe Norwood said Gilas Pilipinas will have to put its best foot forward with high stakes on the line in the FIBA World Cup slated later this year in China.
The 2019 edition of FIBA’s biggest showpiece is going to serve as the first qualifier for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, with one slot to be given to the best placed Asian team.
After becoming part of the Gilas squad that surprised everyone in the 2014 World Cup in Spain, Norwood sees a tougher road with teams expected to give everything they got to secure an Olympic berth.
“I don’t think we can surprise people anymore,” Norwood said after helping Rain or Shine produce an 88-85 win over Meralco in Friday’s PBA Philippine Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
“We have to come there with our best foot forward and whichever group we have it’s gonna be tough,” added the long-time national team mainstay.
FIBA was holding its World Cup draw at presstime in Shenzhen, China with the Philippines to land in either Group B, D, F or H.
The top two teams in each of the eight groups advance to the next round of the World Cup.
A favorable draw could enhance Gilas’ chances of making the Olympics, though host China, Iran, Japan and Jordan are also determined to emerge as the best Asian country after the Aug. 31-Sept. 15 competition.
Should it fail to secure the lone Asian slot, Gilas must be one of 16 next best teams in order to compete in next year’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Four spots are available in that final qualifying stage.
“Whoever makes the (12-man lineup), they have to understand that we deserve to be there,” said Norwood, who is likely a shoo-in on coach Yeng Guiao’s roster.