FIBA cautions Philippines not to miss Olympic qualifiers

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They’ve been warned.

As if forming their most competitive team yet is not a big enough challenge, the Philippines’ mother basketball organization will be put in another tight spot should it decide to forego next year’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) have no other recourse but to send the Gilas Pilipinas to one of three Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQT) next year for the Rio Olympics. Not doing so could result in “disciplinary actions” from FIBA.

A top FIBA official has threw caution to the SBP to not miss any of the simultaneous Olympic qualifiers slated for July 4 to 10 next year or else face sanctions from the sport’s world governing body.

Simon Wilkinson, FIBA’s communications coordinator, said that the Philippines is obliged to field a team in the OQT where the three remaining Olympic slots will be up for grabs. The Philippines, behind naturalized center and former National Basketball Association player Andray Blatche, has secured a slot in the tournament after finishing second behind China in the recently held 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsa, China.

The said cagefest will determine the final 12-team lineup to see action in the Summer Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on August 5 to 21.

“The objective of participating in any Fiba continental championships is clearly laid-out before taking part in these competitions,” Wilkinson stated in an email he sent to the Manila Bulletin, which first broke the news.

“All teams aim to win the continental title and qualify, directly or indirectly, to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games,” added Wilkinson.

“The objective of participating in any FIBA continental championship is clearly laid-out before taking part in these competitions: All teams aim to win the continental title and qualify, directly or indirectly, to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games,” said Wilkinson, who also serves as FIBA spokesperson.

“FIBA therefore expects all teams which have qualified either directly to the Olympic 2016 Rio Olympic Games or to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments and FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament to attend these official competitions of FIBA next year,” Wilkinson stressed.

The SBP, whose president, business tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan, is reportedly stepping down early next year, had earlier expressed his disinclination to send a team to the OQT, for fears that it will just be a waste of resources as the coaching staff might end up settling for second choice players.

It can be recalled that for the FIBA Asia tourney, Philippine team head coach Tab Baldwin had to make do with the players loaned by other Philippine Basketball Association ballclubs after reigning back-to-back most valuable player June Mar Fajardo declined to join the team to focus on his recovery from a plantar fasciitis injury.

Other key players on Baldwin’s “wish list” also opted out citing various reasons which prevented Gilas Pilipinas from forming the strongest team it so desperately wanted.

The OQT will be played in three different locales with Italy, Russia, Turkey, Serbia and Mexico have expressed interest in hosting but the FIBA will announce the winning cities late next month.

Should Pangilinan and the SBP decide to skip the qualifying tourney, FIBA will have no choice but to impost disciplinary measures.

“Should a national team fail to participate, FIBA may decide that disciplinary actions be applied on the relevant national federation(s),” according to Wilkinson.

Aside from the Philippines, in the running for Olympic slots include FIBA Asia third-placer Iran and fourth-placer Japan and France, Serbia, Greece, Italy and Czech Republic from Eurobasket, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico from the Americas, Angila, Tunisia and Senegal from Africa and New Zealand from Oceania.
Already assured of berths include 2014 FIBA World champion US, Australia, Nigeria, Venezuela and Argentina, Spain and Lithuania, China and host Brazil.

The Philippines last saw action on the Olympic basketball stage more than 40 years ago during the 1972 Games in Munich.

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