TOSSUP FOR 2014 FIBA WORLD CUP TICKETS
Proliferation of naturalized players and foreign coaches has raised the level of Asian basketball and put parity at least among the major contenders in the region.
Asian basketball officials said that’s the very case in the 27th FIBA Asia Championship that unfolds at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay and Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila Thursday.
During the press launch at the MOA Arena Tuesday, the consensus was that China, Iran, the Philippines, Jordan, Qatar, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Chinese Taipei and Japan are the teams with solid chances for the three 2014 FIBA World Cup berths to be disputed in the 2013 Asian meet.
The host team is mentioned as a strong title contender being a good team to get extra boost from the home crowd.
In 2011 in Wuhan, China, Team Philippines narrowly missed the Top Three, beaten by Jordan in the semifinals then by South Korea in the fight for third.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes, a returning Phl team bench chieftain, is confident they can make the Final Four. And he said anything can happen from there.
Reyes, however, sees no one easy challenge to faced in the 10-day competition featuring eight teams with a naturalized player and eight teams under a foreign coach.
Representatives from China, Iran, Jordan and Kazakhstan feel the same.
“There’s a bunch of strong teams in this competition. The key is to get off strong in the elimination round and prepare yourself for the knockout phase,” said Iran coach Memed Becirovic, a Slovenian.
“Seven to eight teams are really strong. All the games will be tough, and the quarterfinals is the most important,” said Jordan team manager Zuhair Fuad Nassar.
“It’s clear. I will wish you what you wish our team,” said Kazakhstan coach Mattero Boniciolli, an Italian.
Boniciolli, whose team had faced Gilas Pilipinas in a friendly at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Friday, specifically mentioned the host squad as the team to watch.
“It’s a quality team with good preparation. And the country’s passion for the game is a great plus. Basketball here is unbelievable. They would have 15,000 people pushing them, and that would be a great energy,” he said.
Reyes, however, insisted the challenge would be tough for everyone.
“”It would really be difficult. Sa Tagalog, walang itulak kabigin. There won’t be one game easy because this tourney features not just quality teams but also quality coaching,” he pointed out.
“As for our team, everybody knows what we’ve gone through. We’ve made the most of the time given us. This team would come out fighting tooth and nail,” he also said.
While lacking height and heft, Reyes said they would bank on skills, desire and crowd support as they seek to bring the country back in the world championship for the first time since 1978.
As for the tremendous pressure they would face playing on home soil, Reyes said: “We acknowledge the pressure and so we embrace it.”
Reyes and his troops have gotten words of wisdom from Philippine basketball living legend Robert Jaworski about it.
“He said let’s us embrace the privilege, go out have fun and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience. That’s gonna be our mindset,” said Reyes.
“We know it’s very tough, but we’ll find a way to enjoy the experience,” he added.
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