PH window shut | Inquirer Sports

Dwight Ramos, who played two stellar games for the Philippines against Thailand in the second window, was the last player to enter the bubble before the cancellation of the third window here. —PHOTO FROM FIBA.BASKETBALL

This window may have been closed for the time being. But the national pool continues to move on with its training as it awaits news on where the Fiba Asia Cup qualifying games for its group matches will be transferred.

“We’re still preparing,” coach Jong Uichico, who handled the national team in the second window, told the Inquirer late Tuesday evening. “Our hosting may have been scrapped but the qualifiers will still push through.”

The national pool is currently training in a bio-secure facility in Laguna province and will continue doing so unless the international basketball federation (Fiba) scraps the qualifying matches.

The Philippines needs just one more win to qualify for the continental championship.

The country was supposed to play three games in a bubble at Clark Freeport—two against Asian powerhouse South Korea and one against Indonesia.

But earlier on Tuesday, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP)—with a heavy heart—formally announced what it had been fearing the past two weeks: The cancellation of the third window qualifiers here.

“We’ve constantly communicated with our partners from the National Task Force Against COVID-19, and they have informed us that there would be no exemptions from the current travel restrictions announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs,” SBP president Al Panlilio said in an official statement.

There would have been two brackets of the qualifiers playing here, but the travel bans imposed on those countries has made it impossible for the tournament to push through.

“The SBP offered to welcome not just Group A, where we belong, but Group C as well, because we were confident we’d be able to host a safe environment where world-class basketball players can showcase their skill without having to worry about anything else,” Panlilio said.

“We’ve exerted a lot of effort into our hosting of the upcoming Fiba Asia Cup Qualifiers and this is why it is with great sadness that we announce it is no longer going to happen.”

It wasn’t clear, though, whether 7-foot-3 prodigy Kai Sotto would still fly here to prepare for the qualifiers.

Sotto, who is signed to a contract with Ignite team in the NBA G League, was granted permission by the developmental tournament to fly home for the qualifiers.

He was expected to arrive within the next few days.

“Right now, all we know is that we are still going to train hard so we can get that qualifying win,” Uichico said. “We are just awaiting word from Fiba as to where the games will be transferred.”

Japan has also scrapped its hosting of Group B qualifiers, with Qatar assuming the hosting duties. INQ

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