#FIBA2016: Filipinos upbeat on OQT hosting bid and recharged national team

*This originally appeared on my weekly column on FIBA.com.

The mood in the Philippines was not exactly at a high level after Gilas Pilipinas lost to China in the Final of the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha-Hunan.

Not surprisingly, a lot of people were hoping that the team would bag the continental title and book the continent's lone outright ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympics, especially since former NBA player Andray Blatche would suit up. Many of these same fans also were not happy that many breaks in the game didn't go the Filipinos' way, which overshadowed the fact that finishing in second place again was a testament to how far the program has gone.

(image from FIBA)
These days, however, the tenor surrounding the Philippine national basketball program has shifted from one of depression to one of excitement. This after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, following a period of uncertainty, finally and formally submitted a bid to host one of three Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs) in 2016. Initially, the Philippines submitted their bid along with nine other countries, but, as of this writing, only six have remained in the running as per the latest FIBA announcement. Aside from the Philippines, these are: Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Serbia and Turkey. 

Because the Philippines is the only country outside of continental Europe in that list, many Filipinos feel the chances of hosting one of the OQTs is very high. This is also borne out of the country's experience in hosting the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, which was highly-attended and well-received across the Asian continent. Naturally, Filipinos are also hoping they get the nod this time around after they lost the bid to host the 2019 FIBA World Cup to China earlier this year.

Even the national basketball team has received a big boost recently, what with more players being released by the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Aside from the players who saw action in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, called up were former national team players like Marcio Lassiter, Jeff Chan, Paul Lee, LA Tenorio, June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Troy Rosario, Ian Sangalang, and Ryan Reyes. Star collegiate player and former youth team stalwart Kiefer Ravena has also signified interest to join the national pool.

This is a significant development for Gilas coach Tab Baldwin, who had to scrounge for players just to form a competitive team a few months ago for the continental championship. With several players pulling out due to injury or a variety of other reasons, coach his final roster wasn't as big or deep as the ones that played in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship and 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.

Right now, though, signs have already been very positive, with 100 percent attendance in the team's first practice two weeks ago and everyone is seeing this as a step in the right direction. With the best of the PBA at his disposal, coach Tab can put together a much deeper team than the one that marched to the podium in Changsha-Hunan, and this certainly pads their chances of booking a wild card spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics - more so if Blatche returns along with current Los Angeles Laker Jordan Clarkson.

Are these sufficient reasons to be pumped up for Philippine hoops? You bet.



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