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REYES RELISHES TO BE GROUPED WITH ARGENTINA, GREECE

11:03 AM February 04, 2014

One-time gold-medal winner Argentina and one-time podium finishers Greece and Croatia are among the teams Gilas Pilipinas tangles with in the preliminary round of the 2014 FIBA World Cup slated Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Spain.

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The Filipinos are also lined up for games versus Puerto Rico and Senegal in their first appearance in the world basketball competition in 36 long years.

Gilas Pilipinas is bracketed with Senegal, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Greece and Croatia in Group B which plays matches in Seville.

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Reigning Olympics and World Cup champion USA is in Group C with Dominican Republic, Turkey, Finland, New Zealand and Ukraine; 2006 titlist Spain is in Group A with Serbia, France, Brazil, Egypt and Iran while 2010 bronze medalist Lithuania is in Group D with Slovenia, Angola, Korea, Mexico and Australia.

Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes and team manager Aboy Castro attended the elaborate proceedings Monday night in Spain (early Tuesday morning in the Philippines).

“We relish this experience. It’s the first time in long, long years,” said Reyes, rubbing elbows with the likes of FIBA secretary general emeritus Boris Stankovic, secretary general Patrick Baumann, and cage legends Juan San Epifanio, Dino Radja and Jose Ortiz in the blue-ribbon event.

“To be in this facility is already a dream come true for us. It means a whole lot to our country,” said Reyes, adding they have no illusion that they can contend for a medal in the event.

“For a team like us the Philippines, no group is going to be easy. Everything is gonna be hard. In my mind, I prepared psychologically that it would be a very-very tough competition,” he pointed out.

“We would love to make the second round. To do that, we have to win two games to have a chance to progress to the Round of 16. That would be a huge win not only for our team but the whole Filipino nation,” he added. “In the end, it would be for the country, our countrymen, our flag. Basketball is not the No. 1 sport in the Philippines; it’s the only sport, almost.

Reyes said they would’ve loved better to be in Group C, but stressed they’re proud to be drawn with Argentina and Greece.

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Argentina is ranked No. 3 and Greece No. 5 in the current world ranking.

“We also like the fact that we’re playing in the city of Seville. We know we have a big Filipino population in the city and we expect them to come over, apart from the Filipinos flying over from Manila,” said Reyes.

“It’s a tough group but we relish it. We’ll prepare very hard,” he added.  (SB)

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