SEABA joust reset to May
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - February 11, 2017 - 11:57pm

MANILA, Philippines -  SBP president Al Panlilio said the other day that the SEABA Championships will be postponed from April 23-30 to May 15-21 to allow national team players to finish their obligations in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) and the Indonesian Basketball League (IBL) as requested by SEABA president Erick Thohir of Indonesia.

The SEABA Championships will be held in Manila or Cebu with the SBP awarded the hosting rights by FIBA Asia. The winner of the tournament will represent the Southeast Asian sub-zone in the 16-team FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut on Aug. 10-20. In turn, the top 14 finishers of the FIBA Asia Cup will join two wildcards in the new FIBA World Cup qualifying system involving six home-and-away windows starting in November.

Panlilio said the postponement of the SEABA Championships was suggested during the recent visit of SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan and Thohir to attend the FIBA Central Board meeting at the House of Basketball in Mies, Switzerland. The ABL regular season ends on March 26 with the playoffs set for two best-of-three semifinal series and the best-of-five finals. The IBL season is pencilled to finish in early May. Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines are represented by club teams in the ABL.

So far, eight countries have booked tickets to the FIBA Asia Cup – Lebanon as host country, Qatar as Gulf champion, Australia and New Zealand as wildcards and West Asia qualifiers Iran, Jordan, Iraq and Syria. It’s likely that Palestine will be included in the cast with West Asia champion Lebanon taking an automatic berth as host and the West Asia sub-zone allocated five slots aside from the outright ticket. Palestine finished sixth and last at the West Asia Championships in Amman, Jordan, last Jan. 29-Feb. 2 without coach Jerry Steele and mainstays Sani Sakakini, Imad Qahwash and Jamal Shamala. Steele is now the South Sudan coach in Africa while Sakakini, Qahwash and Shamala were unavailable. Sakakini’s brother Salim, however, suited up for Palestine which created a stir at the 2015 FIBA Asia Championships in Changsha by scoring a 75-73 upset over eventual finalist the Philippines in the preliminaries.

There are seven slots still vacant for the FIBA Asia Cup – one for Central Asia (likely, Kazakhstan), one for Southeast Asia (likely, Philippines), one for South Asia (likely, India) and four for East Asia (likely, China, South Korea, Chinese-Taipei and Japan).

Panlilio said under the Memorandum of Agreement signed by the SBP and PBA, the Gilas rookies will be released for national team practice two months before the tournament and the other PBA players a month later. “The final 12-man lineup is supposed to be confirmed 15 days before the tournament,” said Panlilio. “We’re asking the PBA to release the non-Gilas rookies in the pool a month before that deadline so that would make it 1 1/2 months before the tournament begins. This would make it possible to assemble our complete pool for at least 1 1/2 months of training.”

PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa said the second conference or Commissioner’s Cup will begin either on March 17 or 19, depending on when the finals of the Philippine Cup end. With the SEABA Championships postponed to May 15-21, the Gilas rookies will be released by their PBA teams before the second conference, where the import height limit is 6-10, opens. Narvasa said if there is a request from the SBP to advance the release of the other PBA players in the pool, it will be taken up by the PBA Board of Governors.

In the 2015 SEABA Championships, the Philippines swept its five assignments over Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Laos and Brunei by an average winning margin of 68.4 points. Head coach Tab Baldwin piloted the team in the last two games while assistant Josh Reyes took care of the first three. Six of the players on the 2015 squad are in the current Gilas pool of head coach Chot Reyes – Jio Jalalon, Kevin Ferrer, Russel Escoto, Norbert Torres, Troy Rosario and Mac Belo.

Panlilio said during the recent visit to Switzerland, the SBP delegation made up of Pangilinan, former SBP vice chairman Ricky Vargas, SBP executive director Sonny Barrios and himself briefed FIBA president Horacio Muratore and FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann on the institutionalization of the cooperation between the SBP and PBA in forming the national team through a Memorandum of Agreement.

“When Mr. Baumann visited Manila two years ago, he mentioned the necessity of this institutionalization,” said Panlilio. “So both Mr. Muratore and Mr. Baumann were quite pleased with this development confirming full support of the partnership for the national team. We also briefed Mr. Baumann on the Philippines hosting the SEABA Championships. As for our bid to co-host the FIBA World Cup in 2023 with Indonesia, we were advised to include Japan in a joint effort to strengthen our position. We are now reaching out to Japan to consolidate our bid.”

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