2023 FIBA World Cup – Love the Philippines

By Henry L. Liao

The Philippines will host the FIBA World Cup for the second time in its history when the country, along with Japan and Indonesia, co-host the 19th edition from August 25-September 10.

A total of 32 teams divided into eight groups of four teams each will see action.

The Philippines is in Group A along Angola, the Dominican Republic and Italy.

Our boys play the Dominican Republic on August 25, Angola on August 27 and Italy on August 29.

CJ Perez, Kiefer Ravena and Thirdy Ravena of Gilas Pilipinas [FIBA.com photo]
CJ Perez, Kiefer Ravena and Thirdy Ravena of Gilas Pilipinas [FIBA.com photo]

Only the top two teams in each of the eight groups will advance to the next round, the Round of 16 that is a round-robin affair (with elimination-round games carried over) – A1, A2, B1 and B2 in Group I, C1, C2, D1 and D2 in Group J, E1, E2, F1 and F2 in Group K and G1, G2, H1 and H2 in Group L.

The last two-placers, on the other hand, will automatically be relegated to the classification of 17th to 32nd places

The 3rd round will be the knockout-style Round of Eight, followed by the semifinals, also a one-game affair, and onto the third place (between semifinal losers) and title contests (between semifinal winners) on September 10.

Spain, rated No. 1 in the most recent FIBA World rankings, is the reigning World Cup titlist, having beaten Argentina, 95-75, in the finals of the 2019 competitions in the People’s Republic of China and finishing with an immaculate 8-0 record with the employment of six men with NBA experience, led by tournament Most Valuable Player Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol of the then-NBA champion Toronto Raptors and the brothers Willy and Juancho Hernangomez.

France settled for the bronze medal for a second consecutive time with a 67-59 victory over Australia.

The Spaniards first grabbed the WC gold medal in Saitama, Japan in 2006 when the quadrennial global competitions were still called the World Basketball Championship. (It has been called the FIBA World Cup since 2014). Pau Gasol, Marc’s elder brother who along with 11 other personages is set to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on August 12 (August 13 Manila time) at the Symphony Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts (the birthplace of basketball), earned WC tournament MVP honors in 2006.

In 2019 in China, the Philippines went 0-5 as it went winless for only the second time in its WC history. It hogged the cellar for the first time ever in the 32-nation conclave with a points differential of minus 147 in those five setbacks for a 29.4-point losing margin an outing.

Our boys lost to Italy (108-62), Serbia (126-67, a 59-point difference that was the worst in the tournament) and Angola (84-81 in overtime) in first-round play and was beaten by Tunisia (86-67) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (95-75) in the Classification Round. Our naturalized player, 6-11 Andray Blatche, normed 15.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists to pace the Pinoys in all three departments but the former NBA frontliner came to China overweight and in terrible shape.

Andray Blatche [FIBA.com photo]
Andray Blatche [FIBA.com photo]

If it’s any consolation, C.J. Perez, then a rookie international play, came off the pines to average 12.6 points in nearly 20 minutes of service. He was the only player on the team outside of Blatche to register a twin-digit scoring average. Perez, a homegrown Filipino born in Hong Kong, went 15, 16 and 17 points in his first three appearances in first-round action and was the only player on the team to finish above .500 in field-goal percentage at 54 percent. How bad was our shooting? Only five players shot at least 40 percent.

The Philippines first hosted the FIBA World Cup in 1978 and also went winless at the time at 0-8 (final round of eight teams plus the 7th-8th classification game). The country was beefed up by amateur players since our best cagers were ineligible after suiting up in Asia’s first professional league, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), which had been established in 1975.

Here’s the catch, though. As the host country, we were seeded automatically into the round-robin final phase. Even with no victories to boast, the Philippines still finished eighth overall in the tournament.

In the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the Philippines hope to put up a decent showing (no more 40-point losses, please) against powerhouses Italy and the Dominican Republic and pull of at least one win – against Angola – in the prelims that might not advance our boys to the next round but at least put us in the Classification Round involving the 17th to 24th places.

Good luck, and love the Philippines.

Henry Liao

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