Exit Saudi Arabia. Enter Kuwait.
The RP-Smart Gilas team opens its campaign in the 16th Asian Games against Kuwait following the last-minute withdrawal of Saudi Arabia from the basketball competitions of the quadrennial meet.
But the national developmental team should not take Kuwait lightly, according to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Noli Eala.
“It’s really hard to tell, but I think we can handle them," said Eala on the national developmental team’s chances of winning over the Kuwaitis.
The SBP officially received the communication letter from FIBA Asia informing the governing cage body of Saudi Arabia’s withdrawal from the Guangzhou Asiad late yesterday afternoon.
Originally part of Group A, Kuwait was moved to Group B under the new groupings made by FIBA Asia for the competition that starts in three weeks.
The all-pro Powerade-Pilipinas national team whipped Kuwait in last year’s FIBA Asia Men’s Basketball Championship in Tianjin, China, 85-71. The Filipinos placed eighth in this Asian qualifying tournament for the World Basketball Championship.
But a lot of changes have happened the past year, so the Kuwaitis may be expected to be among the powerhouse nations from the Middle East, which is now regarded as the hotbed of basketball in the Asian region.
In the event the RP-Smart Gilas team gets past Kuwait, it will advance to the second round where the top four teams in each group after a single round robin advance to the quarterfinals.
Should they make it to Round 2, the national developmental squad will first meet two-time FIBA-Asia men’s champion Iran on Nov. 16 and then play Qatar the following day.
After taking a day's break, the national developmental squad resumes its campaign on Nov. 19 against Japan.
The Filipinos will have another one-day break before concluding their campaign with back-to-back games against either Afghanistan or India (Nov 21) and Chinese Taipei (Nov. 22).
Rey Joble, GMA News