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RP's 1st round foe Kuwait withdraws from 16th Asiad

Smart Gilas-Pilipinas' drive for a podium finish in the 16th Asian Games may take a longer route if reports are true that another team entered in the Guangzhou cage meet has withdrawn its participation.

Kuwait, which is scheduled to face the Philippine men's team in a knockout game in the preliminary round, has reportedly decided to pull out from the Guangzhou Asiad.

Saudi Arabia, originally drawn to face Gilas in the prelims, was the first team to withdraw, forcing organizers to replace it with Kuwait.

The Philippines and Kuwait are in Group A with Hong Kong and North Korea.

"We have yet to hear the official report but I know that Kuwait was suspended for one year and I really doubt if they are prepared for the Asian Games," said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Noli Eala.

If that happens, FIBA-Asia will conduct a re-draw among the seven teams that will battle for the four slots into the next round.

Turkmenistan, Mongolia, India and Afghanistan will join the Philippines, Hong Kong and North Korea, with the seven teams wdivided into two groups.

Teams will play a single round robin with the top two teams per group advancing to the tournament proper.

Waiting in the next round are host China, South Korea, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Chinese-Taipei, Iran, Japan and Qatar.

"This will mean that we may have to play two or three games more depending on which group we will be part of, to advance into the tournament proper. It will be taxing on our team because we will play more games," said Eala.

He added that he plans to appeal to FIBA-Asia officials that instead of conducting a re-draw on the seven teams, the re-draw should involve all competing teams since there are still two more weeks before the opening of the Asian Games.

"But for our appeal to be heard, we must also get the support of the six other teams trying to qualify. If it�s only us who will make the appeal, I don't believe they will act on it," said Eala.

The Philippines was not given direct seeding by FIBA-Asia to the tournament proper since the country failed to see action in the 2006 Asian Games after being suspended by the world governing body of basketball because of the leadership dispute between the SBP and the Basketball Association of the Philippines. � KY, JVP, GMANews.TV
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