By REYNALD MAGALLON
It turned out Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes was not only keeping tabs with its group in the 2023 FIBA World Cup but also the groups of other Asian teams as that could also play a factor in the countries’ chance of qualifying to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The best placed Asian team at the end of World Cup will get an outright ticket to the 2024 Olympiad and that’s why Reyes was also wary at how teams like China, Iran, Jordan and Japan fare in their groups.
“I am also looking at the other groups because it’s important that our other Asian competitors are in tough groups because the best Asian team is the one that will go to the Olympics,” said Reyes following the conclusion of the draw at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“As much as I am looking at our group, I was also looking at what the other Asian teams drew as well because that’s what’s gonna determine who is the best placed Asian team. Remember our objective here is to get to the Olympics in 2024. That’s the goal. That’s the dream,” he added.
Gilas Pilipinas which currently sits at No.40 in the world rankings was drawn with No. 10 Italy, No.23 Dominican Republic, and No.41 Angola in Group A, leaving the host country quite a tough road towards advancing to the second round of the tournament.
The same could be said with fellow World Cup hosts and No. 36 Japan which drew tough opponents in No.3 ranked Australia, No.11 Germany, and No. 24 Finland in Group D.
No. 33 Jordan, meanwhile, was the most unlucky among Asian nations after being bracketed in the Group of Death, joining world No. 2 USA, No. 9 Greece and No. 26 New Zealand while Lebanon likewise face a daunting task against No. 5 France, No.15 Canada and no.29 Latvia in Group H.
China (27) is in a relatively easier group facing up against Serbia (6), Puerto Rico (20) and South Sudan (62) in Group B while Iran (22) also has its chances against a group that has top-ranked Spain, Brazil (13) and Cote d’Ivoire (42) in Group G.
Of all the Asian nations, Reyes sees Iran and China as the teams which have the better chances of picking up some victories in the group stage.
“I think China is in a pretty good group. I think they drew South Sudan and Iran drew Ivory Coast and I think those are the teams that they can beat,” said Reyes.
That made it a must for Gilas to at least pick up a victory in the group stage to get a chance of placing better than the rest of Asia and avoid the last place finish in the 2019 World Cup where the country ended up winless.
“Hopefully, we can get a win in the World Cup and the chance to qualify (to the Olympics),” he added.