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ROCKY ROAD TO PARIS | Gilas make last attempt in Olympic qualifier

After the FIBA World Cup, Dwight Ramos (in action) is expected to play another key role for Gilas Pilipinas in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next year. (Photo, FIBA)

Gilas Pilipinas will have to go the proverbial eye of the needle to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Energized by its 96-75 victory over bitter rival China in its final game in the FIBA World Cup, Gilas wound up 24th place in the 32-nation cagefest following the conclusion of the classification round.

So far, four teams have qualified for the Olympics: host France, South Sudan, Australia and Japan.

Four more berths for Paris are up for grabs in the ongoing FIBA World Cup that is being played not just in Manila but In Jakarta and Okinawa as well.

There would only be 12 teams participating in the Olympics scheduled 26 July to 11 August and two slots for the Americas and Europe are still being contested.

As for the Philippines’ bid to catch the last bus to France, it has to contend with 23 other national squads in July 2024.

All 24 qualified teams will be bracketed in four groups of six teams with the top team in each securing an Olympic ticket.

The composition of the final Olympic qualifying will be teams that performed credibly during the pre-Olympic qualifiers the past few months and the high-ranked squad in the FIBA World Cup.

Gilas played five times and won only once—against the mighty Chinese—in a tense clash last Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

They debuted against the Karl Anthony Towns-powered Dominican Republic before melting away to Angola in their second assignment.

In a crucial game against world No. 10 Italy, Gilas got waylaid once again.

Against South Sudan, Gilas was soundly beaten as well.

But Jordan Clarkson put on a shooting clinic against the Chinese as Gilas capped their quest with a win that somehow boosted the confidence of the fans.

Still, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas leadership remains upbeat.

“Overall, our World Cup record is now 14-31 in the seven events we participated in,” wrote SBP president Al Panlilio.

“We set a lot of records this year,” added Panlilio, referring to the 38,115 fans who came to see the Gilas game against the Dominicans on 25 August at the Philippine Arena.

Still, the road to Paris will be bumpy as Gilas will find themselves rumbling with Asian rivals but those from Europe, Americas and Africa as well.

Chot Reyes, who has drawn widespread criticism the last several years, insists he is unsure if he would still be around when the Olympic qualifier reels off, the final event to make it to Paris.

“I don’t know about the OQT. I don’t know if I’m still going to be here for that,” said Reyes during the post-game interview right after Gikas defeated China.

“I might have coached my last game already as Gilas Pilipinas coach.”

The last time the Philippines saw action in the Olympics was in 1972 in Munich with Bogs Adornado , Freddie Webb, Adriano Papa and Ed Ocampo beefing up the team.

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