By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Philippine national men’s basketball team will take on Italy when it begins its campaign at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China in August.
Drawn together in Group D of the tournament, number 31-ranked Gilas Pilipinas takes on number 13 Italy on Game Day 1 of the World Cup on Aug. 31 in a still-to-be announced venue. The Philippines will also take on Serbia (#4) and Angola (#39) in the grouping.
Gilas got to know its schedule and opponents in a star-studded draw held on Saturday in Shenzhen.
Present during the draw were National Basketball Association legend Kobe Bryant, who was designated as World Cup ambassador, and singer-songwriter Jason Derulo.
Also present were FIBA President Horacio Muratore, FIBA Secretary-General Andreas Zagklis and representatives from the 32 participating national teams, including officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
They were joined by members of FIBA’s Executive Committee and Central Board, as well as by high-ranking officials from the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) and representatives from the eight host cities.
Having known of their grouping and their assignments, Gilas coach Yeng Guiao said their task is cut out for them in the two-week tournament but nonetheless believes anything can happen and that they will go to China with an intent of going deep.
“We’re coming with the mindset that we can win at least one, maybe two games. Probably that will enable us to go to the next round,” Mr. Guiao was quoted as saying by the official FIBA Website after the draw was held.
Mr. Guiao took over from Chot Reyes as coach in the middle of the World Cup qualifiers last year and worked with a pool of players culled from the Philippine Basketball Association.
FIBA World Cup format calls for the top two teams from the eight groupings in the first round advancing to the second phase. From there the teams are further weeded out until the top two teams are left to contest the title.
The other groupings are composed of Cote d’Ivoire, Poland, Venezuela and host China in Group A; Russia, Argentina, Korea and Nigeria in Group B; Spain, Iran, Puerto Rico and Tunisia in Group C; Turkey, Czech Republic, USA and Japan in Group E; Greece, New Zealand, Brazil and Montenegro in Group F; Dominican Republic, France, Germany and Jordan in Group G; and Canada, Senegal, Lithuania and Australia in Group H.