Gilas Pilipinas earned a spot to compete in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) following the withdrawal of New Zealand from the competition.

/ 27 February 2021

New Zealand decided to pull out their national team from the OQT due to the spike in competitions and the cost of sending teams abroad. The country instead will focus on the Asia Cup, World Cup, and 2024 Olympics.

FIBA has decided to include the Philippines in the qualifying tournament in Serbia because of the country’s current ranking in the Asia-Oceania region men’s world ranking.

The Philippines is the sixth-ranked country in the Asia-Oceania region behind Australia, Iran, New Zealand, China, and Korea.

“FIBA has decided to replace New Zealand by the following teams, according to the respective rankings: Philippines will replace New Zealand at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2020 in Belgrade, Serbia as the next best team from the Asia-Oceania Region in the FIBA World Ranking Men,” basketball’s governing body said in a statement.

The country will be in Group A along with the host country and the Dominican Republic. Group B, on the other hand, will feature Puerto Rico, Italy, and Senegal.

The four best teams out of all the four OQTs—Lithuania, Croatia, Canada, and Serbia—will advance to Tokyo for the Summer Games.

“This is truly a welcome development and we’re very happy that Gilas Pilipinas Men will be given a chance to compete for a spot in the Olympics,” said SBP President Al S. Panlilio to ESPN5.

Meanwhile, Panlilio said the SBP is looking forward to Ivorian center Angelo Kouame’s naturalization approval before the tournament kicks off. His naturalization bill recently passed first reading in the Senate.

“We will be coordinating with the PBA to plot our plans moving forward and we’re hopeful that Ange Kouame’s naturalization will be signed into law by then,” Panlilio added in the interview.

Gilas last participated in an OQT in 2016, when it hosted France, New Zealand, Canada, Turkey, and Senegal at the Mall of Asia Arena for a chance to secure a ticket to the Rio Olympics.