GILAS Pilipinas will be up against only two opponents in India and New Zealand for the start of the 2023 FIBA World Cup (WC) Asian Qualifiers following South Korea’s pullout due to the team’s coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) issues.

In an emergency meeting on Tuesday, the Korean Basketball Association (KBA) announced the tough decision after another player tested positive for COVID-19 according to the report of South Korean sports outlet Jumpball.

The development hours before South Korea’s flight to the Philippines prompted the whole squad to be listed as close contacts following the said player’s participation in their tune-up game against Korea University on Monday.

Last week, South Korea already dealt with an initial wave of infections that ravaged its 16-man pool led by naturalized player Ra Gun-A, also known as Ricardo Ratliffe.

South Korea was scheduled to face Gilas Pilipinas (twice), New Zealand and India in the Group A games of the WC qualifiers starting tomorrow until Monday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, as host, is yet to release a statement on the major development as of writing time.

There is also no official word yet from FIBA, the world basketball governing body, if the four matches of SoKor would be forfeited or rescheduled in the next window in June.

As for Gilas, it will only have two scheduled games against India and New Zealand on Feb. 25 and 27, respectively with South Korea now out of the picture. The Filipinos were to play their South Korean rivals twice on Feb. 24 and 28.

Gilas is already in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) bubble at the nearby Novotel Araneta City along with India following its arrival on Tuesday while New Zealand is expected to follow suit. — John Bryan Ulanday