Norwood's draw reactions: Parity, Gilas' needs for a stablizer
DOHA (Qatar) - Only a fortunate group of people were able to witness the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers Draw up close and personal. Gabe Norwood was one of them, along with Hamed Haddadi, assisting with the process of the draw.
"Being there and sharing the space with Hamed, somebody I had battled with over the years, just being on the other side of things was pretty cool," said Gabe of that experience. "Also seeing where Iran landed and having those discussions after with him, just talking basketball."
We can only imagine how that post-draw conversation between the two legends went, but from Norwood's end, he was able to give us a glimpse of what his quick reactions were to the results.
"ONE [THING] WAS PARITY. IT SEEMS LIKE THERE'S A LOT OF COMPETITIVE BASKETBALL IN ALL THE GROUPS ACROSS THE BOARD."
"One [thing] was parity, it seems like there's a lot of competitive basketball in all the groups across the board," he expressed.
There are former champions and finalists spread across each group ready to be contested by up-and-coming national teams threatening to spring an upset. With six games across three windows for each team, there's not much room to relax with the way the groups have been drawn.
Of course, Norwood had his attention focused a bit more on the results of one team in particular. No one can blame him, especially since he has spent nearly two decades representing the program in whichever role he can, namely as a key piece of 40 games in the Asia Cup.
"Naturally, seeing where Gilas landed and the group itself, [I'm] really seeing a great opportunity to advance [with] also a lot of dangers there if things aren't approached in the right way."
The Philippines were drawn to Group B along with Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong China, and New Zealand. Norwood would probably be excited to watch any other trio of teams go up against his beloved Gilas, but there's also a little bit of something extra that makes the results of this draw more intriguing for the Asian basketball legend.
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"For the groups that I'm excited to watch, I'm pretty biased but I'll go with [Group B] with Gilas," he said. "You have a really strong team in New Zealand who has been really consistent over the years but you also have us, you have Chinese Taipei, you have Hong Kong China - teams that have played well over time as well so definitely should be exciting basketball across the board in that group.
"I like our chances. Depending on who is available - I think that's always the question - but if there are a lot of the faces similar to the World Cup team - where we built a great foundation with a young group of guys that can really compete at a high level - we can give New Zealand who are the favorites in the group a run for their money."
The Tall Blacks certainly are the favorites as they are ranked 21 in the recent update of the FIBA World Ranking Presented by NIKE, making them the highest-ranked team in the group.
The connections that New Zealand have had since they've started playing in the Asia Cup and even before with training camps there for Gilas in the past and having coach Tab [Baldwin] as part of the program for so many years - there have been some great games. There are similar styles in terms of toughness and approach. New Zealand comes out with maybe physically stronger players but I think the Philippines approach the game with the same love and the same fight as New Zealand.
"I'm looking forward to that one, it should be a fun one and if we get one of those games, it should be huge for us."
The Philippines aren't too far back at 38, but that doesn't mean they can be comfortable about where they stand in these upcoming Qualifiers.
"In terms of other threats, we've had history with Chinese Taipei just playing really competitive games, going back and forth in numerous tournaments and windows, it's always tough," said Norwood.
The Philippines played against Chinese Taipei in three straight Asia Cups from 2009 to 2013 and then faced each other in the First Round of the World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers. While the Philippines hold a 4-1 advantage in these clashes, the games were closely contested and could easily have gone either way.
Norwood also notes that Hong Kong China could potentially have some players that recently played in the Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) as a part of a guest team, which could give them an advantage in terms of familiarity to style of play and level of competition.
All in all, every team in the group poses a potential threat to the Philippines. Therefore, it will be important for the program to be as ready as possible. There's more than enough talent to go around in the talent pool for Gilas, it's just a matter of putting those talents in the right roles - and there's one role in particular that Norwood feels will be a key factor to their success.
"I don't know if it comes down to a particular player but as far as a particular role, just being a stabilizer [is important].
"Scoring the basketball from the perimeter has been up and down for us over the years. Scoring points overall really hasn't [been an issue]. I think we've been able to score points, it's just manufacturing easier points.
"When those times aren't happening, when we're not having stops, to have a stabilizer out there on the court [is important], whether that's a guard, whether that's a forward, or a big guy, somebody who can calm us down, times when the other teams are making a run, and also motivate us and push us when we need to make a run of our own. I think a stabilizer is going to be big for us moving forward."
It's not only about Gilas for Gabe either. As a true fan of the game, Norwood has checked through the entire field of play already. Other than having discussed Iran's Group E with Haddadi, he is also interested in how Group F will unravel.
"Man, all the groups are pretty competitive," Norwood said. "But you look at Group F where you have Bahrain, Syria, UAE, battling Lebanon for those spots.
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"Bahrain are getting better and better every tournament. Syria has been there in the past as well and UAE, having played them in Taipei recently, they're building their team well. So just in terms of overall competitiveness and mystery, it'll be interesting to see how that group plays out with Lebanon being the favorite as they should be."