#FIBAAsia: Extraordinary growth demands extraordinary change

Jeff Chan shoots over Isaac Fotu.
(image from FIBA)
*This first appeared on my weekly column on FIBA.com.

The new FIBA Competition System was explained to local and international media at the recent FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila, and it caused quite a stir.

For sure, it will shake things up and change the game, quite literally. It is set to put a lot of pressure on pro leagues and national federations to assemble competitive national teams that will play in the different qualifying windows and tournaments.

There really are two big changes that will drastically affect basketball in the Asian context.

A photo posted by Enzo Flojo/Hoop Nut (@thehoopnut) on

Perhaps the biggest change is the addition of two new countries to the region - Australia and New Zealand, both of which have had a stranglehold on the FIBA Oceania region practically forever. Of course their entry has a huge impact on the pecking order of Asian basketball. I mean, over the past three or four years, countries like China, Iran, the Philippines, Korea and Japan have been rotating at the top three or four of the different competitions. This time around, however, with the Aussies and Kiwis coming, things are about to get a lot more crowded at the top of the hill. Australia are ranked just outside the top 10 in the FIBA World Ranking Men, while New Zealand are right outside the top 20. Almost automatically, those two teams will be at least among the top four of every Asia-Pacific competition they join, so that really puts a lot of pressure on the traditional Asian powers to make adjustments to their approach in every tournament. No longer will China or Iran be the odds-on favorites every year. Instead both of those countries may as well be underdogs when ranged against the two new kids on the block.

Still, I think this particular change is a good thing. Eventually, it will benefit Asian countries. This is because the only way for teams in Asia to really close the gap or catch up with the countries from the Americas or Europe is to go up against much stronger sides, which is exactly what the Boomers and Tall Blacks are. I was having conversations with a lot of very opinionated people during the Manila OQT and they all pretty much agreed that having Australia and New Zealand would certainly increase the level of play in the region. I mean, just imagine the possibilities. Starting next year, the prospect of having not just one but at least a handful of bona fide NBA players in our region suddenly becomes real. Games featuring the Aussies and Kiwis will surely draw in more than the usual crowds, which is good for the sport’s exposure and growth.

For teams like the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Jordan and Lebanon - teams always on the bubble - this presents an opportunity to improve by leaps and bounds. Playing against top quality opponents like Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Ben Simmons, Steven Adams and Tai Webster should bring out the best in Asia's brightest and force them to push their limits. This is something I have observed in Southeast Asian basketball - teams like Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have improved significantly with the advent of their regional pro league, the ASEAN Basketball League - and it’s easy to imagine the same kind of rapid improvement happening at the Asia-Pacific level. I mean, sure, in the next couple of years, the Boomers and Tall Blacks will probably dominate leading up to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, but I wouldn't put it past the Chinese, Iranians, Filipinos, Koreans and others to eventually catch up and be much much more competitive when the qualifiers for, say, the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup or the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 commence.

The second big change that I think will affect all countries is having FIBA Qualifiers windows in February, June, September and November of each year in addition to the world-level and continental cups that will take place alternately every other odd-numbered year (i.e. FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2019, 2023, 2027; FIBA Asia Cup in 2021, 2025, 2029). This is huge because it significantly affects the calendars of domestic leagues. These windows will serve as the time when qualifying games will be played for either the FIBA Basketball World Cup or the FIBA Asia Cup, and this means that countries are expected to send nothing short of their best available talent. I like this because we will have home and away games, which should really enable the sport to boom in a lot of markets. What I am honestly a little apprehensive about is whether all leagues and national federations will readily and fully commit to align their calendars with these FIBA competition windows.

In all probability, I can easily imagine most leagues in Asia (e.g. the CBA, KBL, B.League, SBL, IBF Superleague, LBL etc.) adjusting their calendars and playdates. Having "international windows" is not new to most Asian countries, since they see it in football, which is deeply ingrained in most of their sporting cultures. Many of their sporting bigwigs will probably have the mindset that "If it can be done it football, we can do it in basketball". I don't see a problem with that, and, frankly speaking, with many Asian leagues ending around March or April, the windows shouldn’t pose much of a problem.

I cannot say the same in the Philippines, though, where the pro league (the PBA) and the national federation (the SBP) have always had some trouble forming the best possible national team. It's ironic, yes, because Filipino hoop nuts are known worldwide to be the most passionate, but, mostly because of commercial and political factors, the ideal national team situation has never really seen the light of day. Even now, with the advent of the new competition system closing in, it is still unsure if the PBA is willing to completely align its complicated schedule (case in point: the complete set of playdates for this season’s final conference haven’t been released yet) with the FIBA competition windows. This is the main reason why people foresee continued problems with trying to gather the country's best basketball players together for constant training in a sizeable national pool, and this, in turn, is the main spark for the SBP pushing for the formation of a Cadets squad, which is essentially a group of many of the most talented amateur players committing full-time to the national team instead of moving up to the pros.

One disconnect I see is that, unlike many other countries around the world, the pro league in the Philippines, even if it is technically "under" the national federation, is not run by the SBP. The PBA has its own set of decision makers, and the SBP has never really been able to impose anything on the PBA. If the national federation could impose on the pro league, which is the case in most other countries, then aligning with the FIBA calendar would be a matter of formality. Unfortunately, such is not the case in the Philippines, where the PBA does not seem beholden to any schedule that FIBA or the SBP wants it to follow. Think of it this way - the PBA's situation is similar to the Euroleague's in that they operate pretty much on their own devices. That makes sense from a business standpoint since the PBA is a commercial entity, but it creates a lot of difficulties when it comes to forming a national program that is supposedly primed for international success.

I mean, sure, Gilas Pilipinas have had a good run these past few years, but how many continental titles (i.e. FIBA Asia Championship and FIBA Asia Cup) have the side won since the program’s inception in 2009? None.

Yes, the Philippines have improved significantly, rising among the top 30 teams in the world, but is that all the program can be? Is that the ceiling, or are the PBA and SBP willing to really work together in a revolutionary way to achieve revolutionary results? It doesn’t have to be making the podium at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, but maybe winning at least one of the next few continental tournaments wouldn’t be out of reach?

At the end of the day, I see the new FIBA Competition System really pushing countries, teams and federations to further improvement, but only if they adjust and align properly. If these countries want extraordinary growth, then they must undergo extraordinary change.




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5 Comment



Paul lee
terrence romeo
marcio lassiter
Matthew wright
Ray parks
Jordan clarkson
Kobe paras
Troy rosario
Raymond almazan
Japeth aguilar
Junmar fajardo
Andray blatche


Terrence romeo-5'11
Paul lee-6'0
Marcio lassiter-6'2
Matthew wright-6'4
Ray parks-6'4
Jordan clarkson-6'5
kobe paras-6'6
Troy rosario-6'7
Raymond almazan-6'8
Japeth aguilar-6'9
Junmar fajardo-6'10
Andray blatche-6'11


The SBP-PBA knew all along what it takes to win in the OQT, and that is, TRAIN WAY AHEAD OF TIME. Hence they started practice 6 months prior to the rare opportunity of hosting the OQT.However, IT WAS NOT AN ALL-OUT TRAINING. IT WAS JUST LIKE A SIDELINE. THE PBA WAS STILL THE MAIN THING.The PBA schedules were too long. Gilas can only practice every Monday. And this isn't enough against world class competition. And the Monday practices were incomplete, excuses abound from injuries to resting in preparation for their next PBA game. AND WHEN THE OQT WAS ONLY A FEW MONTHS AWAY, THE PBA HELD YET ANOTHER CONFERENCE.THAT SEALED THE DOOM FOR GILAS. NOT TO MENTION THAT THERE SEEMS TO BE NO ONE WHO FOCUSED TO TO GET THE GREEN LIGHT FROM FIBA SO JORDAN CLARKSON CAN PLAY. And at the OQT we were outplayed at the backcourt, where Clarkson could have helped tremendously. IF THE POWERS THAT BE AT THE PBA WOULD STILL PUT THEIR INTEREST AND GLORY OVER AND ABOVE NATIONAL INTEREST AND OUR COUNTRY'S HONOR AND THE JOY OF ALL FILIPINOS, THEN SBP MUST INTERVENE, FLEX ITS OWN MUSCLES.If need be tge SBP must allow the formation of a league that would adjust its schedules for the sake of national glory. In the meantime, i just conciously stop from reading much or watching PBA games.


The SBP-PBA combine knew for a fact that our chances to nail in the one and only slot at the Manila Olympic Qualifier Tournament (OQT) hinged on a long preparation. Hence, they agreed to have practices start a good six months before the OQT. THE PROBLEM WAS IT WAS NOT THE MAIN FOCUS. It was like a sideline and the PBA was still the main thing, the real job. With only a small adjustment allowed by the PBA, Gilas practices were only once a week. Even then, players would beg off from practices, citing excuses like rest needed for a PBA game the following day. AND TO TOP IT ALL, WITH THE OQT only about 3 months away, the PBA still pushed thru WITH YET ANOTHER (NEEDLESS) CONFERENCE. That sealed the doom of Gilas right then and there. With only about 6 weeks left to practice, they couldn't just get the much needed cohesion. Coach Tab Baldwin's hands were tied. And the icing on the cake was not the injuries to Slaughter, Lassiter, or Lee, but the inability to get FIBA's approval to allow Jordan Clarkson to play. And his importance was highlighted by the fact that our backcourt was outplayed by the opposition. The SBP ought to assert its power. But if and only if the SBP cannot/would not assert its might, and the PBA continues to allow only meager preparatory time, then it might be time for the SBP to allow the formation of a new league, a league that puts national interest and glory above corporate glory and marketing strategies thru more game exposures. And i wouldn't be surprised if some willing PBA teams might transfer to that new league.