MANILA, JUNE 7, 2007
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - It will be as difficult as scaling the Great Wall.

The Philippine team found its awesome task of getting into the Olympics again further compounded by drawing the toughest group in the 24th FIBA-Asian championship in Tokushima, Japan from July 28 to Aug. 5.

The Nationals have found themselves in a formidable company in the 16-team Asian Olympic qualifier with defending champion China and powerhouse challengers Iran and Jordan in the group.

“Unfortunately, we’re in the Group of Death,” said RP team coach Chot Reyes upon learning of the draw held in Tokushima yesterday.

“(The result) couldn’t have been worst. China and Iran are the biggest teams in terms of height and they’re tough. Jordan won’t be easy,” Reyes added of the RP team’s Group A.

Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Japan make up Group B; Qatar, India, Kazakhstan and Indonesia Group C and South Korea, Hong Kong, Syria and Chinese Taipei Group D.

Reyes said it could be a lot easier making the quarterfinals had they been bracketed in Group B or Group C.

“You work so hard to prepare only to leave your fate to the luck of the draw. However, this team and this country have come too far to be denied. It is not our style to dwell on negatives,” said Reyes.

“Our focus now is how to beat Iran and Jordan. China will take care of itself. We will go to Beijing or we will die trying,” Reyes added.

One thing going for RP is the fact that Reyes and his staff have scouted Iran and Jordan, third and fourth placers, respectively, in the Doha Asian Games.

“We’re familiar with those teams. We know that Jordan has a naturalized players in Raheim White, a touring pro who used to play as import in the Jordanian league,” said Reyes.

Incidentally, the Philippines suffered a 47-63 defeat in a three-quarter tune-up game with Iran during the rest day in the recent FIBA-Asia Champions Cup in Tehran, Iran. The Iran team features three centers standing at least 6-foot-11.

“Another good thing with this draw is the possibility of lighter assignments in the quarterfinals. The problem is how to get out of the group games,” said Reyes.

But Reyes stressed they will do their best to achieve their goal of making it to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

BAP-SBP executive director Patrick Gregorio attended the draw supervised by FIBA Asia first deputy secretary general Khajirian Hagop of Lebanon.

“The Philippines was drawn second to last. The draw was fair with media coverage,” said Gregorio in a text message.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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