By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is set to get down to work in preparation for the surprise inclusion of the country’s men’s basketball team in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in the middle of this year.
The local basketball federation said it will coordinate with the different stakeholders to come up with the best possible representation in the tournament set for June 29 to July 4 in Belgrade, Serbia.
Gilas Pilipinas earned a spot in the qualifiers after New Zealand withdrew from various FIBA tournaments, including the OQT, over coronavirus-related concerns.
In an announcement made last week, FIBA said the Philippines earned the spot because as per the world rankings, it is the next best team from the Asia-Oceania region.
The Philippines is lumped in Group A along with the Dominican Republic and Serbia. Group B, meanwhile, has Puerto Rico, Italy, and Senegal.
One Olympic spot is up for grabs in the tournament.
Following the news, SBP expressed excitement over the country’s inclusion and for the opportunity to compete in a high-profile competition.
It is set to tap stakeholders for support for the tournament, including the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
“The aim is to send the best team possible to make our Filipino fans proud. We will be coordinating with the PBA to plot our plans moving forward,” said SBP President Al Panlilio following the FIBA announcement.
“This is truly a welcome development and we’re very happy that Gilas Pilipinas will be given a chance to compete for a spot in the Olympics,” he added.
The PBA has been a long-time partner of the SBP for international competitions.
Apart from the FIBA OQT, PBA players are set to boost the national team for the Asia Cup Qualifiers to be held here.
The SBP also hopes to have naturalized player candidate Angelo Kouame of Ateneo eligible come the Olympic Qualifiers.
Mr. Kouame’s naturalization was approved by the Senate committee on justice last week and still to be tackled further before being signed.
The SBP sees the big man as adding ceiling and muscle for the Philippine team.