By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Grant Hill wouldn’t be surprised if the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 would be a big hit, particularly in the Philippines where it is co-hosting the event along with Japan and Indonesia.
After all, he was given a rock star-treatment the last time he was in Manila back in the 90s.
“I just think the fans and the passion and the love of the game will be on full display this upcoming summer, much like it was – or more than it was – back in the mid-1990s,” Hill said in a zoom call with reporters Monday, March 13.
Then the star of the Detroit Pistons thirty years ago, Hill was in Manila to promote a shoe company that was attended by 30,000 people at the mall. At one point, his hotel needed special security due to fans flocking at the place.
Filipinos’ passion for basketball hasn’t changed since then, and with Team USA scheduled to display its stuff in the country, expect fiesta-like atmosphere each playing day.
Yes, despite the reported expensive ticket prices.
Indonesia and Japan will also stage Group Phase games, while the Philippines will put on the Final Phase.
Now Team USA’s general manager, Hill said the entire organization is excited to compete in the country.
“You know, obviously we want our players to see Manila in the Philippines and be able to be there — not just to play basketball but to learn something about the country, its history, its culture,” Hill said.
Hill, however, said they also have a job to do. First in the agenda would be selecting the World Cup roster.
“We’ve had some great dialogue throughout this past season, probably going back to the beginning of the season, with some players that we’ve targeted,” Hill said. “Players have been very, very receptive. I think in recent weeks, we’ve started to intensify that and looking to really get some momentum there and some commitments, possibly, here in the stretch run going into the playoffs.”
Training camp is set to start in early August, with an exhibition in Las Vegas, followed by warmup games in Spain on the Aug. 11-13 weekend and more games in Abu Dhabi the following weekend.
The FIBA Basketball World Cup starts on Aug. 25 until Sept. 10.