THE Philippine men’s basketball team Gilas Pilipinas will join powerhouse countries Argentina and Puerto Rico in Group B of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, the tilt’s official draw revealed on Tuesday.
Although Gilas avoided clashing with the formidable Team USA of LeBron James, they would be up against Manu Ginobili’s Argentina and Renaldo Balkman’s Puerto Rico along with the squads of Senegal, Croatia and Greece during the preliminary round.
Gilas Pilipinas Head Coach Chot Reyes admitted that it would be a tough task to play in the FIBA World Cup but remains optimistic of the Filipinos’ chances to make it to the Top Four of each bracket and enter the knockout stage.
San Antonio Spurs’ Manu Ginobili and Indiana Pacers’ Luis Scola might reinforce Argentina that won the gold medal in the Athens Olympics. Argentina is No. 3 in FIBA world rankings while Greece is No. 5, Croatia No.16, Puerto Rico No.17, and Senegal No. 41. The latter is the only country ranked lower than the Philippines (No. 34) in Group B.
The other groupings were as follow: host Spain, France, Egypt, Iran, Serbia and Brazil in Group A, USA, Finland, New Zealand, Ukraine, Dominican Republic and Turkey in Group C and Slovenia, Lithuania, Angola, Korea, Mexico and Australia in Group D.
The draw was held at the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona, Spain.
Meanwhile, a House leader sees Congress granting Filipino citizenship to at least one American basketball player to augment the Philippine contingent to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption Party-list made the pronouncement in light of the filing of House Bills 3783 and 3784 by Deputy Speaker Robbie Puno of Antipolo City. The said bills intend to grant citizenship to National Basketball Association (NBA) players Andray Blatche and JaVale Lindy McGee.
“I believe that there is a high chance of this passing in third reading, but there will be a sort of compromise so we’ll only naturalize one player. If the intention is to have a back up for Douthit, then one player [naturalized to be a Filipino citizen]would be enough,” Tugna, who regularly plays basketball and played college football for the University of Santo Tomas, told The Manila Times.
Tugna was referring to the lone naturalized player in Smart Gilas lineup, the six-foot-nine Marcus Douthit.
Blatche, 28, is a six-foot-11, eight-year NBA veteran who plays center for the Brooklyn Nets. He averages 9.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
McGee, on the other hand, is a 26-year-old who plays center for the Denver Nuggets. He stands at 7-foot-1 and averages 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. McGee, however, is presently on injured list.
“Nationalism cannot be limited to bloodline. We have done it with Douthit, and we have seen good results. We’re already here in the World Championships. It is public interest that we perform well in Spain because it will put our country in the World Basketball map. When that happens, a myriad of things can happen to our country like influx of tourists and investors,” Tugna pointed out.
The Philippines earned its first FIBA Basketball World Cup ticket in 35 years by bagging the silver medal in the 27th FIBA Asia Championships held in Manila in August 2013. This came via a gutsy and emotional 86-79 win over longtime nemesis South Korea in the semifinals.
The 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup is set on August 30 to September 14 in Barcelona, Spain.
With report from Llanesca T. Panti