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Sports

An impossible dream?

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star
An impossible dream?
The plan is for Gilas to open training camp on June 22 or after the PBA Philippine Cup conference ends.
STAR / File

Gilas is hoping against hope to make what appears to be an impossible dream come true in seeking a ticket to Paris at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Riga, Latvia, on July 2-7. The Philippines is in a tough conclave with Georgia, Latvia, Brazil, Cameroon and Montenegro in the blitz competition where only one Olympic slot is up for grabs. In the prelims, the Philippines will play host Latvia on July 3 and Georgia on July 4. If Gilas finishes first or second, it advances to face the top two finishers from the other group in the knockout semis. Then, the winners slug it out for passage to Paris.

The plan is for Gilas to open training camp on June 22 or after the PBA Philippine Cup conference ends. Coach Tim Cone intends to spend a few days with the Gilas pool at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba then bring the squad to Europe for friendlies before landing in Riga. Boston Celtics’ 7-2 center Kristaps Porzingis isn’t likely to suit up for Latvia. In the ongoing NBA playoffs, he has missed nine straight games due to a calf strain but may be reactivated during the Indiana series to prepare for a possible Finals stint. Whether or not he returns, Porzingis will probably opt to rest during the Olympic qualifiers. Charlotte Hornets’ forward Davis Bertans, however, is expected to be in harness for the home squad with brother Dairis.

Fairmont State’s Thad McFadden is tipped to lead Georgia’s charge as its naturalized player. Two Brazilian players who saw action in the NBA this season are 6-8 Maozinha Pereira and 6-6 Gui dos Santos. They could be in Brazil’s roster in Riga. Cameroon may bring in naturalized player 6-2 Jeremiah Hill of Valdosta State, University of Missouri’s John Tonje and former UAAP MVP Ben Mbala but the team would be highly competitive if only NBA players Pascal Siakam and Christian Koloko sign up. Joel Embiid would have been a major addition but opted to reinforce USA as a naturalized player instead. Montenegro could enlist naturalized player Javonte Green, Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic and former NBA players Nikola Mirotic and Marko Simonovic.

With Jamie Malonzo recovering from leg surgery, Cone’s pool is down to 13 players, namely Scottie Thompson, Chris Newsome, Calvin Oftana, CJ Perez, JuneMar Fajardo, Dwight Ramos, AJ Edu, Carl Tamayo, Kai Sotto, Kevin Quiambao, Japeth Aguilar, Mason Amos and Justin Brownlee.

In seven Olympics where the Philippines played basketball, the delegations were large because there were 12 cagers except in 1948 where only 10 saw action. The last Olympics where the Philippines played hoops was in Munich in 1972. The Philippines’ claim to fame in Olympic basketball history is the country posted Asia’s highest finish ever, fifth in 1936.

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