Gilas Pilipinas was given a lifeline in late February when the team was tapped for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) to be held in Serbia. New Zealand withdrew from the tournament opening the door for the Philippines by virtue of it being the next best ranked team from the Asia-Oceania Region.
This is big news especially to one of the most basketball crazy countries on earth and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) echoes the excitement of the nation according to SBP Deputy Executive Director and Director of Operations Butch Antonio.
“It was pure excitement when they mentioned it to us, everyone just got on board and is really looking forward to the competition”, Antonio said.
While the Philippines is in a tough group with the Dominican Republic and Serbia, the SBP is still excited and grateful for the second chance to get into the Olympics.
“It will be challenging for this young team of ours. There’s anxiety, excitement, lahat na ng feeling is there. But what is important is that the Philippines will have that chance again to be able to compete again and have that shot at being back in the Olympics”, said Antonio.
It is indeed a tall order to face powerhouse hosts Serbia, which rosters the likes of Bogdan Bogdanović, Boban Marjanović, and 2021 NBA MVP Candidate Nikola Jokić, and the Dominican Republic that has numerous players plying their trade in Europe. The group will sharpen the young Gilas roster further in preparation for the future.
While the OQT now becomes the biggest tournament for Gilas this year, the national team still has the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers Third Window to prepare for which the team is not taking lightly. The Philippines only needs one more win to qualify from group A and will have two chances against Asian power South Korea as well as one game against Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia.
The FIBA Asia Cup 2021 will be held from August 16-28 and will be hosted by Indonesia. If qualified, Gilas Pilipinas will be competing in at least three tournaments this year which will surely test the mettle of our national team roster.
Preparations for both tournaments will ostensibly begin after the PBA draft on March 14 and it has been announced that the Gilas roster will not be bringing in any reinforcements from the pro ranks and thus send an all cadet team.
Apart from these tournaments, the SBP also has other plans for 2021, including further developing the Filipino 3×3 team that will also compete in an Olympic Qualifying Tournament this year.
The 3×3 basketball event is now officially an olympic sport and the Philippines is aiming to qualify for the event by placing in the top 3 in the OQT that will be held in Graz, Austria from May 26 to 30.
The SBP is proud to say that the 3×3 event has been something that the NSA has focused on since the event’s beginnings.
“The 3×3 has been a flagship operation of the federation especially in the grassroots, we have been very supportive of FIBA’s drive to develop the sport since its inception, we have been there”, Antonio said.
On the other programs of the SBP for 2021, it has started planning and plans to execute E-learning programs soon under different academies under the federation. One of these is the coaching academy as well as different instructional webinars for referees and other officials that are under the SBP.
The SBP is also hopeful for the FIBA World Cup 2023 to be hosted by the Philippines, along with Japan and Indonesia, which the federation has been planning since 2018. By then Antonio said that the team will be even better than it is now.
“Experience playing against the best teams will not be replaced by anything”, Antonio said.