The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas faces the challenge of boosting its ranking when Gilas Pilipinas plays in the last two windows of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in November and February.
From No. 33, the Filipinos dropped eight rungs lower to No. 41 in the latest International Basketball Federation ranking that triggered an uproar from the local basketball community.
The significant drop was caused by Gilas’ sluggish performance in the first four windows of the tourney that serves as a gateway to the FIBA Basketball World Cup that the country will host next year.
Gilas walloped India in the February window, 88-64, but got dumped by New Zealand, 99-63, in Chot Reyes’ return as head coach following the resignation of Tab Baldwin, who opted to focus on his role as mentor of Ateneo de Manila University.
In June, the Filipinos were once again clobbered by the Kiwis, 106-60, then reasserted their dominance against, India, 79-63.
At the start of the fourth window in August, Gilas, boosted by the inclusion of National Basketball Association star Jordan Clarkson and 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto, visited Lebanon, but lost of heartbreaking 81-85 decision.
The Philippines vented its ire on Saudi Arabia at home and won convincingly, 84-46.
Aside from the World Cup qualifiers, Gilas also had a forgettable showing in the FIBA Asia Cup where they missed out the quarterfinals to essay their worst finish in 15 years.
Bannered by young players, the Reyes-mentored squad won only a single game in four matches.
Their lone win came from India, 101-59, but lost to Lebanon, 95-80 and New Zealand, 92-75, before absorbing a 102-81 defeat from the hands of Japan in the qualifying game for the quarterfinals.
In the coming fifth window this November, Gilas will be playing without Clarkson and Sotto, but they will enjoy the luxury of having Japan B. League standouts in Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos and Ray Parks as well as the stars from three Philippine Basketball Association teams in Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, San Miguel Beer and TNT Tropang Giga.
With a good showing, Gilas could jack up its FIBA ranking and pacify the stakeholders.
But the upcoming windows will not be easy.
Gilas will be traveling to Amman to face Jordan on 7 November and Dammam to collide with Saudi Arabia on 10 November.
Then, they will tangle with Lebanon on 24 February and Jordan on 27 February at the Philippine Arena – the site of the final round of the FIBA World Cup.