PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — PATRICK Gregorio, executive director of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), left for Japan yesterday to attend this morning’s draw for the FIBA-Asia Men’s Championship set July 28-Aug. 5 in Tokushima.
Sixteen teams, including defending champion China, will be distributed to four groups, making up the elimination round bracketing for the qualifying tournament to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The top two teams from each group will advance to the quarterfinals as A1-B2-C1-D2 and A2-B1-C2-D1, with the top two squads from each bracket squaring off in the crossover semifinals.
If China, which is seeded to the Olympics as host country, makes it to the Tokushima final, the runner-up automatically qualifies to the Games as well.
If the Chinese fail to advance, then only the champion will go to Beijing.
By virtue of their placing in the last FIBA-Asia tournament in Doha, China paces Group A, Lebanon in Group B, Qatar in Group C and South Korea in Group D.
China has won 14 of the last 16 stagings, with the Ron Jacobs-coached Philippine team beating the Chinese 82-72 in Kuala Lumpur in 1985 and South Korea edging Japan 78-76 in Riyadh in 1997.
Chot Reyes, coach of San Miguel-Pilipinas, knows the draw would be critical but is not building up any hopes.
“We’re praying for the best, but realistically, with the kind of teams participating, wala ka rin pipiliin,” explained Reyes.
“We can end up with really strong group mates and there’s very little we can do about it.”
As crucial as the draw, according to Reyes, is the quarterfinal group where the Nationals would land if they advance.
“We don’t know how that would play out, and that’s very critical,” he said.
Presiding over the draw is FIBA-Asia secretary-general Dato Yeoh Choo-Hock of Malaysia.
The SMC-RP team, which swept the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Men’s Championship in Ratchaburi, Thailand, last week, remains in deep training twice a day at the Ateneo-Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in Katipunan, Quezon City.
The San Miguel Corporation- backed national team is also now waiting news on the arrival of 6-6 Fil-Am point guard Gabe Norwood for the Nationals’ coming trip to Belgrade later this month.