FIBA taps Philippines to join OQT in Serbia after New Zealand withdraws

The Philippines was tapped by FIBA on Friday to replace New Zealand for an Olympic Qualifying Tournament to be held in Belgrade, Serbia set for June 29 to July 4.

"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 Tall Blacks pulled out citing a spike in the number of high performance events and costs of sending teams abroad.

It brought up the cost of isolation and quarantine beds, and a heftier price tag of travel, which had doubled from their projected budget.

"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.

Panilio said the federation hopes Ivorian center Angelo Kouame is naturalized when the tournament tips 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," Panilio said.

The Philippines, the sixth-ranked country in the Asia-Oceania region, 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.

Only one country from this tournament will qualify for Tokyo. 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 claim a spot in the Rio Olympics.

Gilas 3x3 had earlier punched a ticket to the 3x3 OQT in Oct. 2019.

This post has been updated.