GILAS Pilipinas in the Fiba World group with Serbia, Italy and Angola is as terrifying as seeing Manny Pacquiao pitted against Terence Crawford.
Serbia and Italy are in the Top 15.
Although Angola is one rung lower than Gilas in the Top 40, Angola has bragging rights as the African champion.
But listen to Chot Reyes.
“We can beat Angola,” said Chot, who coached Gilas in the 2014 Spain Fiba Cup. “I can sense victory.”
A win over Angola, coupled with another triumph over either Italy or Serbia, will push Gilas to a first ever stint in the next round of the Worlds.
The top two teams from each of the eight groups having four squads apiece will advance to the next round in the 32-nation event won back-to-back by the US in the last two editions.
OK, a bit more of history.
The last time we played in the Fiba Worlds before 2014 Spain was 41 years ago. And that’s only because we hosted the 1978 Manila Cup, giving us an automatic slot.
China will also enjoy the same bonus for hosting the Fiba Cup from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15, where several Chinese cities play host to the Olympics of basketball.
Chot, in his usual unselfish demeanor, shared me his thoughts on the Fiba Worlds inside Manila Golf Club’s locker room after our round at the MVP Media Cup on Friday.
“The key to our campaign in China is scouting our foes well,” he said. “I did the job myself before the Spain event as I travelled to Europe to watch the games of all our possible opponents.”
He was gainfully rewarded for it as Gilas nearly scored major upsets, dropping close contests against Croatia (81-78), Argentina (85-81), Puerto Rico (77-73) and Greece (82-70). We beat Tunisia in overtime, 81-79.
He heaped praise on MVP (Manny V. Pangilinan), the main cog in Gilas’ return to the Worlds in 2014 even amid criticisms that our stubborn stints in global basketball are mere exercises in futility.
“He’s been hands-on from Day One,” Chot said. “It was MVP who redeployed Blatche (Andray) for the China mission.”
But on another plane, will Pacquiao defeat Crawford?
That’s another story, fellers.