We have made it back to the FIBA World Cup but it was 34 years ago when the final buzzer sounded as the Philippines walked out winners against then Asian champions Japan for the 13th place match at the Rudi-Sedlmayer-Halle in Munich, Germany. That was the last Olympic game for our men's basketball team.
The road to the 2016 Rio Olympics will begin in July 5 as Gilas will take on the best of the best. France, New Zealand, Turkey, Canada and Senegal will also try to win this FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament to join the five continental champions and other qualified teams to snatch the elusive gold medal away from the United States.
We may failed to qualify outright but we still have a chance to make it to the Olympics. Unfortunately, we have to hurdle past tough competition and it's a tall order just to make it into the next round. It is said that we are on the proverbial "Group of Death" with tough European teams and an NBA-laden squad. Even though we have homecourt advantage and the "best sixth man" in the world, our visiting opponents are already used to playing in front of a hostile home crowd.
What are our chances?
Honestly, slim to none. Andray Blatche may not be the same beast-mode that we saw in the 2014 FIBA World Cup and having Jordan Clarkson on our team is still a dream. Ditto for Kobe Paras and Bobby Ray Parks. The Mall of Asia crowd may electrify the game but it will also put our team in a pressure cooker with everything is at stake that each individual from the starters to the end of the bench rotation has to deliver big time!
Since we are unlikely to meet Senegal in the group stage, New Zealand is the likely target for a big "upset." Remember, they are the real national team not the team that we beat in the 2015 Jones Cup and 2015 MVP Cup. We may have almost defeated France in front of their home fans at the 2014 Antibes Invitational but it was only a friendly without the magnitude of an Olympic berth at stake. The 2010 FIBA World Cup runners-up Turkey is the likely team that we may have to face should we move on to the next round as second seed in our group. The 12 Giant Men will be a tough nut to crack as they are blessed with really big guys from Omer Asik to Semih Erden, how will June Mar Fajardo or Greg Slaughter (should they play) handle these Turks? Should we meet the Canadians, we will have our hands full against NBA caliber talents of Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Olynyk, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett.
At the end of the day, we can always dream big and try to reach for it no matter what. We may never know what's in store for our team when we tip off 5-6 months from now!