Big moments, power shifts in Philippines, Asian basketball
Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 4, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Not just the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia but the whole of Asia basked in glory as the Phl-led Asian consortium earned the rights to host the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

FIBA, the international basketball association, toasted the winning effort of the cage federations of the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia as the biggest moment in Asian basketball in 2017.

It’s the defining moment in the year for FIBA Asia as it wasn’t a simple feat.

Despite the fact that the 2019 FIBA World Cup will already be held in China, the hosting of the 2023 edition was awarded to Asia again – a testament to the sport’s potential for growth and the passion of its fan base in the region as championed in the SBP-led “WC” hosting bid.

FIBA said this further highlights and deepens the relevance of the Asian region in international basketball.

FIBA listed the return of the World Cup to Asia in 2023 as the biggest moment in the region ahead of the merger of the Asian and Oceania basketball, the huge upsets in FIBA Asia, the emergence of Australia as the new kingpin in the region, the retirement in style of Asian cage star Fadi El-Khatib and many more.

Korea kicked things off with a huge road win over fancied New Zealand, while other teams like Iraq and Jordan garnered big wins over their higher-ranked foes. These results gave fans a glimpse into the unpredictability of matches at the Asian qualifiers and served as a wake-up call for each country to not take any team for granted.

A groundbreaking event in 2017 was the inaugural window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers from Nov. 23-27. For the first time ever, 16 matches were held in 14 different venues, with the Philippines sweeping its two matches versus Japan in Tokyo and against Chinese Taipei at home at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Australia also swept its two games against Japan and Chinese, a few months after a sensational debut in Asian basketball where it ruled the FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon.

The Asia Cup was a moment to remember for the home fans as they saw right before their eyes the farewell tour of their longtime star.

At 37, El-Khatib remained an unstoppable force, putting in a tournament-high average of 25.9 points to lead Lebanon to sixth place behind Australia, Iran, Korea, New Zealand and China.

The tourney, marked by the merger of Australia and New Zealand with the old Asian regulars, was also highlighted by the emotional return of Syria in Asian hoops.

Team Japan made the biggest waves in Asian women’s caging in upsetting Australia even as India celebrated its own feat as it reigned supreme in Division B with a dominant showing before a highly supportive home fans in Bengaluru.

Perlas Pilipinas did its job in keeping a spot in Division I play.

The U16 Women’s Asia Championship diadem went to Australia which nipped Japan, 61-60, in a thrilling finale.

But for FIBA, the most precious jewel in Asia’s cap in 2017 was the result of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 hosting bids.

The biggest honor belongs to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas – the lead party in the winning bid.

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