SBP expects big, roaring home crowd

Photograph courtesy of SBP AL Panlilio is looking forward to a record crowd when Gilas Pilipinas battles Lebanon and Jordan in the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in February. 

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is looking forward to a big home crowd when Gilas Pilipinas battles Lebanon and Jordan in the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in February at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

SBP president Al Panlilio said local cage fans should go all out and support the national squad in the sixth window that will also serve as a dry run for the country’s World Cup hosting next year.

The last time the Philippine Arena was filled up to the rafters was during Game 7 of the 2017 Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup best-of-seven finals series between Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco.

A total of 54,084 spectators showed up, setting the record for the biggest crowd ever to witness a local basketball game.

“February will be a big window for us,” Panlilio said.

“We’re hosting it and, at the same time, it’s against Jordan and Lebanon. That’s quite an interesting two games for us. It’s also a preparatory for the World Cup training. That’s the last window of the Qualifiers as well.”

Gilas’ campaign in the fifth window went well.

Bannered by the core of PBA players and Japan B. League campaigners, Gilas creamed Jordan, 74-66, in Amman and Saudi Arabia, 76-63, in Jeddah despite the organizers’ limited ticket allocations for the fans of the visiting team.

He said they are confident that Justin Brownlee, Ginebra’s resident import who served as one of the main attractions during the
record-setting game in 2017, will be able to suit up as naturalized player when Gilas Pilipinas collides with the Lebanese and the Jordanians.

“We’re working on Brownlee,” Panlilio said.

“Hopefully, we can bring him in for the sixth window. I know it’s a bit tight, but we’re getting support from the Senate and Congress. There’s just a few documents we have to submit. We’ve followed up on how to push them because it’s already November.”

The last time Gilas paraded a naturalized player was in the fourth window in August when they lost to Lebanon, 81-85, with National Basketball Association star Jordan Clarkson on board.

Clarkson will not be around when the Philippines rekindles its rivalry with this emerging powerhouse in the Asian region, but Gilas will be banking on the possibility of having Brownlee lighting up the scoreboard.

After the sixth window, Gilas Pilipinas will train non-stop for three months and the PBA is going all out in supporting the national team by providing all the players it needs.

In fact, the league, through PBA chairperson Ricky Vargas and commissioner Willie Marcial, has decided to shorten its season by giving up one full conference to give way for Gilas’ preparation.

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