By JONAS TERRADO
The upcoming Group A window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers has been reduced to a three-team field after South Korea decided to pull out of this week’s games due to COVID-19.
A report by South Korean website Jumpball bared that the Korean Basketball Association decided to withdraw from the window after one player tested positive before the team was supposed to board a flight bound for Manila on Monday.
South Korea had been hit with infections during preparations for the matches set at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, including naturalized player and former PBA import Ricardo Ratliffe.
Thirteen players would have represented South Korea for the window slated Feb. 24 to 28 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
FIBA has yet to formally announce the withdrawal while South Korea faces the prospect of having all of its four games in the window forfeited.
South Korea’s calendar includes two matches against Gilas on Feb. 24 and 28 and one each opposite New Zealand on Friday, Feb. 25 and India on Sunday, Feb, 27.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas officials have yet to issue a statement regarding South Korea’s pullout at presstime.
The development leaves Gilas with just two matches for the window, with India as its first opponent on Friday followed by New Zealand on Sunday.
Gilas is already inside the FIBA bubble at Novotel Manila and Big Dome composed of 15 players, with TNT’s RR Pogoy and Troy Rosario being the last entrants.
Pogoy and Rosario, Poy Erram, Kelly Williams, Kib Montalbo and Gab Banal are the TNT players who were included by coach Chot Reyes for the window, with the rest coming from Japan’s B.League and the Gilas pool.
Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, naturalized player Ange Kouame, Juan Gomez de Liano, Will Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab, Tzaddy Rangel and LeBron Lopez are among those who are currently inside the bubble.
South Korea earlier said that it is eager for revenge after dropping its two matches to Gilas in last year’s Asia Cup Qualifiers in Angeles City, Pampanga.
The Philippines is unbeaten at home against South Korea in FIBA competitions.