Ticket to Olympics

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Its actually a lot easier to make it back to Olympic basketball competition in 5x5 than 3x3. The key is to register the best record among Asian countries in the FIBA 5x5 World Cup preceding the Olympics. That will secure a ticket to the Summer Games without the challenge of surviving an Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) against teams from five continents.

The 3x3 event will make its Olympic debut for men and women in Tokyo. A total of eight mens teams will competehost Japan; China, Russia and Serbia by virtue of their FIBA 3x3 world ranking; Poland, Netherlands and Latvia by placing top three at the 20-team OQT in Graz and Belgium by topping the six-team Universality OQT in Debrecen. The Philippines played in the OQT in Graz and wound up last. In the latest standings, the Philippines is ranked No. 24 in the FIBA 3x3 ladder. The Asian countries higher in the totem pole are No. 5 China, No. 6 Mongolia, No. 7 Japan, No. 21 Chinese Taipei and No. 23 Iran.

In the womens 3x3 Olympic division, the competing teams are Russia, China, Mongolia and Romania by virtue of their world ranking; US, France and Japan by winding up top three in the OQT in Graz and Italy by winning the Universality OQT in Debrecen. The Philippines did not participate in the OQT where the Asian teams were Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Chinese Taipei.

In 5x5, host Japan is a guaranteed entry. Other automatic qualifiers are the best two finishers from the Americas and Europe and the top placers from Asia, Oceania and Africa at the FIBA 2019 World Cup. Representing the Americas are Argentina and the US. Spain and France are from Europe, Iran from Asia, Nigeria from Africa and Australia from Oceania. Note that in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, Australia and New Zealand play in the Asia/Oceania consolidated zone. So in the FIBA Asia Cup, Australia and New Zealand compete with Asian teams. For Olympic qualification, however, FIBA recognizes separate Asia and Oceania zones.

At the FIBA 2019 World Cup, Iran was the best Asian finisher, ending up No. 23. Host China was No. 24, South Korea No. 26, Jordan No. 28, Japan No. 31 and the Philippines in the cellar at No. 32. In the OQT, China, South Korea and the Philippines (replacing New Zealand) saw action but none scored a single win. China lost to Canada, 109-79 and Greece, 105-80. South Korea bowed to Venezuela, 94-80 and Lithuania, 96-57. The Philippines was beaten by Serbia, 83-76 and the Dominican Republic, 94-67. The closest an Asian team came to a victory was Gilasseven-point loss to Serbia. Advancing to Tokyo from the OQT are the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovenia and Italy. Surprisingly booted out were defending Olympic silver medalist Serbia, world No. 6 Greece, world No. 8 Lithuania, world No. 9 Russia and world No. 11 Brazil.

In the womens 5x5 division, the Olympic contenders are South Korea, Serbia, Canada, Spain, Nigeria, Japan, France, US, Australia, Puerto Rico, China and Belgium. The Olympic basketball schedule is from July 24 to Aug. 8.

If the Philippines finishes the FIBA 2023 World Cup as the best Asian placer, then it books a ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics outright. A determining factor is the luck of the draw. If the Philippines lands in a bracket where it has a strong chance of advancing to the second round and the other Asian teams are in tougher groups, then there is a high probability of ending the long Olympic drought. The Philippines hasnt played basketball in the Olympics since 1972. Excluding Australia and New Zealand, there will be six Asian teams in the coming World Cup, listing co-hosts Philippines and Japan (Indonesia has to finish top eight in the FIBA Asia Cup next month to qualify). Assuming Indonesia makes it, that will leave three other Asian slots, likely for China, South Korea and Iran. If FIBA allows legitimate Fil-foreigners like Jordan Clarkson, Remy Martin, Stanley Pringle and Christian Standhardinger to be classified as locals and coach Tab Baldwin retains the nucleus of the Young Guns reinforced by selected PBA players, the Olympic window could open up for the Philippines via the 2023 World Cup.

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