Yes, we still can
BEFORE this recent FIBA Asia tournament started, there are actually two chances for Asian countries to qualify in the basketball tournament of next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
The first of course in the FIBA Asia event held in Changsha, China where only the gold winner will get that slot in Rio.
As we all know by now, host country China snatched that trip to Rio when they defeated Team Philippines during last Saturday’s Finals showdown.
The second chance, which many deem as a near impossible attempt for our country owing to its potential opponents is FIBA’s wild card tournament which is set July of next year.
The event is called the 2016 FIBA World Olympics Qualifying tournament which will happen from July 5 to 11 in three different countries.
At the moment, there are already nine countries that are sure to see action in Rio and by July, three more nations will be added to complete a 12-team cast in the quadrennial meet and many are hoping the Philippines will be one of them.
The 15 of the 18 countries have already been determined and they are Eurobasket campaigners France, Serbia, Greece, Italy and Czech Republic; FIBA Americas teams Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico; Angola, Tunisia and Senegal in the AfroBasket side; Asian countries Philippines, Iran and Japan and New Zealand representing the FIBA Oceania side.
There those who are saying that FIBA Asia was our best chance while the final Olympic qualifier would be hard to conquer since most of the top basketball nations will be campaigning in that event.
What these doubters must realize is Philippine basketball in the international scene has grown by leaps and bounds.
The last FIBA World Cup in Spain where the Philippine team, collectively known as Gilas Pilipinas, happened just about a year ago and it was a fact that the Nationals overachieved in that event that led to countless compliments from basketball pundits around the globe.
Before beating Senegal in their last schedule, Gilas lost to three of four teams by an average of 3.6 points and these were against known basketball hotbeds Croatia, Puerto Rico and Argentina.
The Philippines’ other loss was against Greece, 82-70.
From today until July 2016, that’s about nine months to prepare for that one big push to Rio though politics in basketball will surely be an issue.
But thinking positive about it, it is more than enough time to tweak the line-up that competed in China.
The biggest boost may come from the availability of Los Angeles Lakers sophomore guard Jordan Clarkson, who is technically eligible to play for the country after it was learned that he has been a holder of a Philippine passport before turning 16.
As per FIBA rules, a foreign-born player is required to obtain a passport that came from the country he intends to play for before turning 16.
As for his Lakers’ obligation, there won’t be any conflict for Clarkson because even if LA makes the Finals, the championship series would be over by June.
Meantime, naturalized center Andray Blatche may be in better shape around that time as his Chinese Basketball Association commitment may be over by then.
Usually, the CBA stages its season from November until March, giving Blatche enough time to rest for a while before plunging back to training for the Philippines Olympic bid.
Reports have it the Philippines has also signified its intention to bid for one of those three qualifiers together with Mexico, Canada, Italy, Turkey and Russia.
With all these possibilities, all our players and officials need to do is to lick its wounds only for a while, get into stride and continue our Olympic dream which definitely did not end up as a nightmare in China.