By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE twice-delayed third and final window of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup Qualifiers finally gets under way on Wednesday in a “bubble” setup at Clark City in Angeles, Pampanga.
Happening from June 16 to 20, the competition will see seven teams playing in two groups and 11 matches in five days for spots in the continental championships later this year.
Gilas Pilipinas (3-0) leads the squads seeing action in Group A of the FIBA bubble, along with Korea (2-0), Indonesia (1-2) and Thailand (0-4). Also in the country are Chinese Taipei (2-1), Japan (1-1) and China (0-0) in Group B.
The Philippines just needs a victory in its scheduled three matches in the third window to advance to the main draw of the Asia Cup in August to be played in Indonesia.
Gilas is set to play Korea on June 16 at 6 p.m., then Indonesia on June 18 (6 p.m.). It finishes off its assignments on June 20 with a reengagement with Korea on June 20 (3 p.m.).
The final 12-man roster of the Philippine team was set for release on Tuesday but as of this writing, the squad was still deliberating on it.
The players will be drawn from an all-cadet pool of players, namely, Isaac Go, Mike Nieto, Jordan Heading, Will Navarro, Jaydee Tungcab, Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, Javi Gomez De Liano, Carl Tamayo, SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos, Lebron Lopez, Geo Chiu, Kai Sotto and naturalized player Angelo Kouame.
Coach of the team is Gilas program director Tab Baldwin, assisted by Jong Uichico and Caloy Garcia.
Korea will be one of the busiest teams in the bubble, playing four games. It is being bannered by naturalized player Ra GunA (former Philippine Basketball Association import Ricardo Ratliffe), and Lee DaeSung and Lee JungHyun.
It will also feature highly touted prospects Lee Hyunjung and Yeo JunSeok.
While it is already qualified as the host of the Asia Cup, Indonesia is still out to get valuable wins in the competition led by naturalized player Lester Proper, also a former PBA import, and coached by ex-Gilas head coach Rajko Toroman.
Thailand has had a rough qualifier bid with no win to show for to date but is looking to go out on a high note.
In Group B, pace-setting Chinese Taipei will parade young guns such as the naturalized Senegalese point guard Mohammad al Bachir Gadiaga and 6’8” power forward Tan Jielong.
China, for its part, will feature Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) players like Zho Qi (Xinjiang Flying Tigers), Wu Qian (Zhejiang Golden Bulls), as Hu Mingxuan, Zhou Peng, Ren Junfei, and Xu Jie (CBA champions Guangdong Southern Tigers).
Japan will be without its National Basketball Association players Rui Hachimura (Washington) and Yuta Watanabe (Toronto) but the Akatsuki Five will have naturalized Japanese Gavin Edwards and Ryan Rossiter joining veterans Kosuke Takeuchi, Joji Takeuchi, Ryusei Shinoyama, Kosuke Kanamaru, Naoto Tsuji, Makoto Hiejima and Aki Chambers.
As per tournament format, the two top teams from each group will directly qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 while the third-placed teams will play against squads with the same ranking in four other groups in separate qualifying matches between Aug. 12-14 in Jakarta.
The FIBA Asia Cup third window is to be conducted under a centralized setup where movements of participants are specifically limited to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.
It is being done under the guidance of national and local governments, hosts Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, Bases Conversion and Development Authority and Clark Development Corp., and FIBA.
Gilas Pilipinas matches can be seen over TV5, One Sports+, Cignal and Gigafest.Smart.