BARCELONA – Gilas coach Chot Reyes said yesterday now that the FIBA Central Board has named the four wildcard countries to play in the World Cup, he is even more convinced there will be no weak bracket in the 24-nation conclave where the preliminaries are set in four Spanish cities before the knockout games move to Madrid and this city.
The FIBA Central Board convened here last Saturday and chose the wildcard entries from a list of 15 candidates. Although there is no confirmation from FIBA, it was speculated that the wildcard applicants paid a “donation” of the equivalent of P30M just to be accredited. China and Russia, considered shoo-ins to be awarded wildcard slots, were left out and reportedly withdrew at the last minute.
The four teams picked to join the 20 early qualifiers were 2016 Olympic host Brazil, Greece, Turkey and Finland.
FIBA limited each continent to three wildcards with Europe reaching the limit. Greece is ranked No. 5 in the FIBA world ladder, Turkey No. 7 and Finland No. 39.
Turkey hosted the 2010 World Cup and Turkish appliance and consumer electronics firm Beko is a major sponsor of the tournament set Aug. 30-Sept. 14.
No confirmation has been made by the Chinese Basketball Association but it is widely rumored that national coach Panagiotis Giannakis was relieved after China failed to enter the Final Four at the FIBA-Asia Championships with the Greek at the helm in Manila last year.
The vacuum in coaching and a slow transition in moving in replacements for the aging Chinese stars were cited as possible factors that led to the withdrawal.
Reyes said it was “amazing” that the Philippines is playing in the World Cup while Russia, the bronze medalist in basketball at the London Olympics, is not.
Other countries that missed the bus are No. 14 Germany, No. 21 Italy and No. 25 Canada.
The 24 countries playing in the World Cup are No. 1 US, No. 2 Spain, No. 3 Argentina, No. 4 Lithuania, No. 5 Greece, No. 7 Turkey, No. 8 France, No. 9 Australia, No. 10 Brazil, No. 11 Serbia, No. 13 Slovenia, No. 15 Angola, No. 16 Croatia, No. 17 Puerto Rico, No. 19 New Zealand, No. 20 Iran, No. 24 Mexico, No. 26 Dominican Republic, No. 31 Korea, No. 34 Philippines, No. 39 Finland, No. 41 Senegal, No. 45 Ukraine and No. 46 Egypt.
Reyes arrived here Saturday afternoon after a 17-hour journey from Manila via Dubai. He was accompanied by team manager Aboy Castro and logisitics director Andrew Teh.
They were on board the inaugural Emirates Airbus 380, 500-passenger, double-deck flight from Dubai to Barcelona.
The Philippine delegation will attend the FIBA draw then inspect the training, competition and housing facilities in the city where Gilas is playing.
Reyes said he will also check out the facilities in Vitoria, a city about a 3 1/2 car ride from Madrid, where Spanish coach Nacho Lezcano is suggesting for Gilas as its training base.
“We’ll be visiting four Spanish cities in five days,” said Reyes. “This is a working trip. We also want to reestablish our network of connections with coaches, scouts and of course, FIBA officials. We will extend the best wishes of (SBP president) Mr. (Manny) Pangilinan to FIBA president Yvan Mainini, FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann and FIBA-Asia secretary-general Hagop Khajirian.
There is a lot of excited talk about the success of Manila hosting the FIBA-Asia Championships last year and this has brought about Mr. Baumann’s invitation to Mr. MVP for Manila to host a masters leg and perhaps, even the finals of the FIBA World 3×3 this year. We are also hoping to host the next FIBA-Asia qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics.”
Reyes, Castro and Teh will be back in Manila on Friday.