There will not be a Philippine representative team in the 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup, after all.
The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) previously announced that the Meralco Bolts will be replacing the supposed representatives San Miguel Beermen, but it appears that the tournament will opt for an actual champion team instead.
With two consecutive championships under their belts, the Beermen were the de facto choice to represent the Philippines in the upcoming club championships, but will once again be missing from the tournament.
Apart from East Asia’s ‘Big Three’ professional leagues, the PBA is the only other league to be granted an automatic berth to the Final 8, and while the Philippines has been one of the most active countries in FIBA competitions, they have yet to be represented by reigning professional league titlists in the past 28 editions of the Champions Cup.
San Miguel is already set to make a rare appearance in an international club competition as they will be joining fellow PBA teams Blackwater Elite and their recent Finals opponents, TNT KaTropa, at the East Asia Super League tournament in Macau next month, so it appears they are able if willing.
Last year, the PBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) also opted to send the Meralco Bolts in place of San Miguel. The Bolts made it to the semifinals but bowed out in a tightly-contested match against Petrochimi Bandar Imam BC of Iran, before losing to the Seoul SK Knights in the Bronze Medal match.
Taking their place are Lebanese powerhouse Al Riyadi, who are making their 10th appearance in the Asian club championships, and is one of the most successful in tournament history with two titles to go with seven podium finishes.
The Lebanese champion team’s most recent continental title was when they beat the Xinjiang Flying Leopards (as China Kashgar) in the 2017 Champions Cup Final in Chenzhou, China.
Al Riyadi is set to join the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), Alvark Tokyo of B.League Japan, Ulsan Mobis Phoebus of the Korean Basketball League (KBL), Hitech Basketball Club of the Thailand Basketball League (TBL), the Fubon Braves from Chinese Taipei’s Super Basketball League (SBL), Palayesh Naft Abadan of Iran Super League, and Al-Muharraq of Bahrain’s Premier League as the Final 8 teams of the tournament.
The 2019 FIBA Asia Champions Cup will be held at the Chulalongkorn University Sports Complex in Bangkok, Thailand on September 24-29.
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