Moment of truth

The teams that Gilas Pilipinas will battle in the preliminaries will finally be known when the International Basketball Federation holds the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 draw tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Drama and excitement are expected to rise starting 6 p.m. with 32 nations eagerly waiting the outcome of the draw that will mark the start of their preparation for the world-class tourney set from 25 August to 10 September in Manila, Jakarta and Okinawa.

The Philippines will be placed on Pot 1 together with super powers United States, Spain and Australia while Pot 2 will feature France, Serbia, Slovenia and Lithuania.

Greece, Italy, Germany and Brazil will be in Pot 3; Canada, Venezuela, Montenegro and Puerto Rico will be in Pot 4; Iran, Dominican Republic, Finland and New Zealand will be in Pot 5; China, Latvia, Mexico and Georgia will be in Pot 6; Jordan, Japan, Angola and Ivory Coast will be in Pot 7; and Lebanon, Egypt, South Sudan and Cape Verde will be in Pot 8.

They will be drawn into eight groups with Groups A and B playing at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Groups C and D at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Groups E and F at the Okinawa Arena in Okinawa, and Groups G and H at the Indonesia Arena in Jakarta.

The FIBA Central Board, however, decided to make last-minute changes and moved the final stages from the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan to the Mall of Asia Arena to make it more accessible to local and international fans.

The 55,000-seater venue, however, will still host Gilas Pilipinas when it plays its first world-class game at home in 45 years.

“The priority that led to this decision is the experience of our fans,” Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio said in a statement.

“This is in service of the Filipino basketball fans as well as those arriving from all over the world.”

Teams from Pots 1, 3, 5, and 7 will be drawn to Groups A, C, E, and G, while countries from Pots 2, 4, 6, and 8 will be slated to Groups B, D, F, and H.

By virtue of serving as host, the Philippines had previously decided to be part of Group A while assigning National Basketball Association stars like Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum and the mighty Americans in Group C.

Japan, for its part, opted to host Luka Doncic and the Slovenians by placing them in Group F while Indonesia will welcome the arrival of Andrew Wiggins, RJ Barrett, Jamal Murray and the Canadians by assigning them in Group H.

Spicing up the highly-anticipated festivity will be international legends like Dirk Nowitzki of Germany, Andrei Kirilenko of Russia, Luis Scola of Argentina and Yao Ming of China.

There will also be performances by local stars Sarah Geronimo, Billy Crawford and American rapper Saweetie to electrify the crowd that is expected to be composed of both local and international fans.

But for Gilas coach Chot Reyes, the draw is more than just a festivity.

Making his second World Cup stint, Reyes stressed that their preparation greatly depends on the outcome of the draw.

“We have to wait for the draw. It’s very difficult to plan and prepare blindly,” Reyes said after wrapping up their campaign in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers last February.

“We have to figure out who is in our group to know how we are going to prepare.”

He added that he will plot his training program, including their friendly matches and international training, based on who they will face in the preliminaries, similar to what they did in their buildup for the 2014 World Cup in which they were grouped with Greece, Argentina, Croatia, Senegal and Puerto Rico.

“We’re going to go on a training camp and play tune-up games, but we have to know who we are going to play and that’s going to be determined by who is in our bracket, in our group,” Reyes said.

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