By Jonas Terrado
Gilas Pilipinas will need to treat its 2019 FIBA World Cup stint as meaningful and important games rather than being content on just being there as the competition will serve as qualification for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The national cagers must emerge as the best Asian team after the Aug. 31-Sept. 15 FIBA showpiece in order to give the Philippines its first Olympic berth since the 1972 Munich Games.
Two slots are each allotted from the Americas and Europe and one each from Africa and Oceania. Japan is already assured of a World Cup berth as the host nation.
Getting a favorable competition will enhance Gilas’ chances of reaching the Olympics which would depend on the draw slated Saturday night in Shenzhen, China.
Eight groups composed of four teams each are set for the World Cup, with venues set in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Foshan, Shenzhen and Dongguan.
Coach Yeng Guiao earlier said the team’s preparation depends on where Gilas is bracketed in the World Cup.
Top officials from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas led by chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan and president Al Panlilio are due to leave for China today along with Philippine Olympic Committee President and PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas.
PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial and members of the league’s Board of Governors are also due to head for China on the eve of Saturday’s draw to attend the proceedings.
“I am looking forward to the draw and praying for a favorable grouping for the Philippines,” said Panlilio in a text message.
“Our objective of course is to do better than the last World Cup in Seville. We hope to advance to the next round. Please join us in our prayers for our Philippine team. #parasabayan,” he added. (With a report from Waylon Galvez)