IT'S all systems go for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, with Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al S. Panlilio beaming with confidence on the country's hosting of the global hoops conclave.

16 August 2023

IT’S all systems go for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, with Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al S. Panlilio beaming with confidence on the country’s hosting of the global hoops conclave.

“Everybody is ready to go. I’m hoping the best World Cup ever for FIBA in terms of not only showing the world that we can host a global event like this, but really the hospitality of the Filipino people, the smiles and generosity of our people. I’m sure they can feel that,” said Panlilio in the special edition of the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Meralco Conference Hall on Tuesday.

“The whole Local Organizing Committee (LOC) has been tireless when it comes to the World Cup preparations and I have full belief that we can provide a hosting like no other.”

At the same time, Panlilio mentioned about injured players Scottie Thompson and Kai Sotto now back in harness and already joined Gilas Pilipinas in the final phase of its preparations for the biggest basketball event for the year that kicks off on August 25.

“I was there the other night (Sunday practice), and everybody was there, the whole 16 players. Scottie is fit, it’s just a matter of getting back to the groove of playing. Kai also played. The doctors of Kai spoke yesterday (Monday) with the SBP doctors, and he’s been cleared to play. So that’s good news,” added the SBP chief in the same session presented by San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Sports Commission, MILO, Philippine Olympic Committee, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Panlilio was joined by SBP executive director Sonny Barrios, deputy event director Erika Dy, and joint management committee head John Lucas as they all expressed the country’s readiness for the event’s staging.

Sixteen of the top 32 basketball squads are heading to the country for the group stages, with the Philippines looking to set the new FIBA attendance record for the opening day Friday next week at the cavernous Philippine Arena.

The number to beat is 32,616 which was set during the finals of the 1994 FIBA World Championship in Toronto, Canada where the Shaquille O’Neal-lead USA cruised to the gold medal against Russia.

The Philippines could easily top that with the mammoth venue having a full capacity of 55,000, one that the organizers are hopeful to see when Gilas Pilipinas, bannered by Jordan Clarkson, opens its campaign against the Dominican Republic led by Karl Anthony Towns.

“We’re really primed to beat that record. We’re very close to the goal, but not yet there,” said Dy.

Mall of Asia Arena and Smart Araneta Coliseum will also house the other group stage games in the country, while co-hosts Japan and Indonesia will hold their own preliminaries before the final phase turns to the Pasay venue.

Aside from the star-studded USA team, among the NBA stars poised to see action in Manila are Bogdan Bogdanovic for Serbia and naturalized player Kyle Anderson for China.

Luka Doncic for Slovenia, NBA champion Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for Canada, Juan Hernangomez for defending champion Spain, Lauri Markkanen (Finland), Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier (France), Dennis Schroder and Franz Wagner (Germany), and Josh Giddey and Patty Mills (Australia) have also committed to play for the World Cup and will vie for the crown.

Panlilio said members of the FIBA working staff are already in the country as pre-World Cup events will be held starting next week, beginning with a welcome dinner on Monday for the delegates of the different basketball federations who will be attending the FIBA National Congress set on Aug, 22 and 23 at the Sofitel Hotel.

On Aug. 23, the FIBA will be holding its Hall of Fame ceremony, where the country’s very own Caloy Loyzaga is going to be enshrined.

Panlilio also believes the LOC, in cooperation with the relevant government agencies, has done its part in putting up a premium hosting experience for the teams in those three weeks.

Basketball fans can also watch the action live on TV5, One Sports, and on Cignal’s brand new innovative OTT streaming app Pilipinas Live.

Games have yet to start, but Panlilio already is beaming on what the Philippines will offer for this tilt from Aug. 25 to Sept. 10.

“This early, we see this hosting as a success and it’s rooted from the cooperation that the government sector has extended to the LOC in making all of these possible,” he said. “We’ve left no stones unturned and it’s now the Philippines’ turn for the spotlight and we’re happy to welcome basketball home.”