Mark Angelo Mañez

Manila - Gilas Pilipinas will open their 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign with a titanic showdown against #23 Dominican Republic and Karl-Anthony Towns. They will also play host to World #10 Italy and #41 Angola in Group A after the conclusion of the Draw at the historic Smart Araneta Coliseum, Saturday night.

Photo Courtesy of FIBA Basketball
“I would have hoped that the last pick was Ivory Coast instead of Angola because I thought Angola was the tougher team. Not that Ivory Coast is weak by any means. But other than that, it is what it is," Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes expressed after the draw. Group B, meanwhile comprises debutant South Sudan, European juggernaut Serbia, previous World Cup host China, and Puerto Rico. During the 2019 edition in China, Gilas was grouped with Italy and Angola which ended in contrasting setbacks. The Italians bombarded them with a 46-point drubbing, while Angola needed five extra minutes before squeaking past them in Foshan. “Good thing is that now, we have some clarity on who we are playing and what kind of preparation is necessary to be at our best come August,” added Reyes. Meanwhile, the main hosts met the Dominican Republic at the 2021 Olympic qualifiers in Serbia and lost by 27, 94-67 with the team under Tab Baldwin's guidance. “It goes both ways. We know them. They know us. There’s going to be a few surprises. But in the end, that’s going to be determined by how well we can prepare, how well we can get together, play together, and how many quality tune-up games before the actual [tournament],” Reyes said. “No. 10, No. 23, No. 41. That’s the best way to describe it. Italy is No. 10 in the world, Dominican is No. 23, and we are basically tied with Angola,” said Reyes. Group C, with the Mall of Asia Arena as its setting, will have reigning Olympic champions United States take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece with Jordan and New Zealand in tow. Egypt, Mexico, Montenegro and Lithuania complete Group D. Co-host Japan will be expected to get their real game in rhythm with Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe as they clash with Dennis Schroder and Germany in their own opening day campaign in Okinawa. Third-ranked Australia, meanwhile, take on Lauri Markannen and Finland on the same day. Slovenia, with Luka Doncic expecting to take charge, will take on Venezuela in Group F which will be played at the same venue. Reigning world champions Spain, meanwhile, open their title defense in Jakarta, Indonesia with #42 Côte d'Ivoire as their first hurdle. I.R. Iran and Brazil join them in Group G, which will be played at the newly-built Indonesia Arena. Canada and France meanwhile opened up hostilities in Group H as they found themselves grouped with Latvia and Lebanon.
MOA Arena to host tournament Final phase, replaces PHL Arena The FIBA Central Board also confirmed its decision to transfer the venue of the tournament's Final Phase at the SM Mall of Asia (MoA) Arena in Pasay City replacing the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, Friday. Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio mentioned that the move inclined into the service to all fans, both local and international alike. "We thank our brothers and sisters of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) and the Philippine Arena Management in this endeavor and we appreciate their support of the final decision that was reached," he added. Group phase matches remain as is with the exception of the Final phase, which will be played at the Pasay venue. "The main consideration leading to the decision was the requirement to provide consistent and swift transfer of teams and fans over the six days of the Final phase," tournament Executive Director David Crocker said. "Despite improvements tested with transport and traffic engineers, the Board came to the conclusion that an event with multiple sessions in one day like the Final Phase of the World Cup must be delivered to the standards required for the players and fans experience," he further emphasized. The Arena however, will serve as the opening game venue for Gilas Pilipinas who have waited almost half a century after its last hosting in 1978.

Edited by Diana Mae Salonoy