There will be a Philippine representative at the 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup after all.
Vincent ‘Chot’ Reyes, the overall head of the Gilas Pilipinas National Team program tweeted that there will be a Filipino team to fill the slot vacated by Japan’s SunRockers Shibuya, who opted not to participate in the tourney this year due to scheduling conflicts with their domestic league.
— Chot Reyes (@coachot) September 5, 2017
Added as a “wildcard”, it was mentioned in the tweet that Chooks-to-Go, the Gilas program’s chief backer will be carried as the namesake of the team. Due to the conflict with Philippine Basketball League (PBA) schedules, a source with ties to the organization has said that the team will most likely again call up the Gilas cadets like ASEAN Basketball League players Bobby Ray Parks Jr., Kiefer Ravena, Raymar Jose, and PBA D-League standout Jeron Teng.
No further details about the composition of the team have been given thus far, but is expected to consist of other national team cadets given they have no established professional club franchise.
The Gilas program is not a basketball club so it is puzzling to some as to how they were chosen as the replacement, but it is also worth noting that the then telco-sponsored Smart Gilas National Team was also allowed to participate in Jakarta in 2009, Doha in 2010, and when it was held in Manila in 2011.
The Philippine side’s participation in this tournament also adds up why they pulled out from the Macau-based Super 8 league, who has also been in a legal dispute with FIBA themselves for the past couple of weeks, forcing them to rebrand from the original “Asia League” name.
The reason given for the name switch was that “one of our conditions for receiving FIBA recognition was to restrict participating clubs to be those clubs competing in the duration of their national leagues.”
Many fans clamor for the dominant Philippine club team San Miguel Beermen from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), but they have not participated since the conglomerate sent a representative that had a dismal campaign ten years ago.
Earlier this year, Thailand Basketball League (TBL) champion club Mono Vampire became Southeast Asia’s de facto lone representative to the tournament after no other teams bothered to play in the qualifier. The Thailand club team dominated their domestic basketball scene after winning both the Thailand Basketball Super League and the TBL.
Last year, the Southeast Asian subzone was represented by the 2016 ASEAN Basketball League champions Westports Malaysia Dragons, who unfortunately went winless in four outings.
Interestingly, the Philippines’ naturalized player Andray Blatche will play against the team for the first time, as he will again represent China Kashgar (Xinjiang) where he has been one of their key players since joining them in the Chinese Basketball Association in 2014.
This year’s tournament will take place in Chenzhou, China from September 22 to 30, and will consist of ten teams divided into two groups.
Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas will be pooled in Group A together with ONGC (India), Mono Vampire (Thailand), Petrochimi (Iran), and Sareyyet Ramallah (Palestine). Defending Champions Xinjiang Flying Tigers (China) will hold fort in Group B against Al-Ahli (United Arab Emirates), BC Astana (Kazakhstan), Al-Riyadi (Lebanon), Dacin Tigers (Chinese Taipei).