USA Basketball Draws Turkey, Czech Republic, Japan In FIBA World Cup

Tall Blacks head coach Paul Henare has welcomed New Zealand's tough draw at the 2019 FIBA World Cup

MANILA, Philippines - Kobe Bryant is one of the best players to have ever donned the US colors, having won two Olympic gold medals and one FIBA Americas championship.

The tournament format is cut throat, with the top two from each Group advancing to the round of 16 and a shot at the medals, while those finishing third and fourth will play in classification 17 to 32 matches.

China will be placed in Group A with all their group matches to be played in Beijing and reigning world champions United States of America will be allocated to Group E in Shanghai. "But it's going to be fun".

Group C: Spain, Puerto Rico, Iran and Tunisia.

Spain won the World Cup in 2006, led by Pau Gasol - and he's hoping to play for his country this summer as well.

Host China is in the easiest group, Group A - where no team is now ranked higher than No. 20.

Greece got a smooth draw for the first group stage of the 2019 Basketball World Cup in China on Saturday, and will likely meet Team USA in the second group stage, which means it will avoid it at least in the first knock-out round.

Shea Ili on the drive for the Tall Blacks
SuppliedShea Ili on the drive for the Tall Blacks

Former NBA and Team USA star Kobe Bryant, now a World Cup ambassador, told the draw ceremony: "The USA has some really stiff competition".

The other four will reach Tokyo through qualifying tournaments over the next year.

Gilas Pilipinas, which needed to win its last two assignments and a Korea victory over Lebanon to push through, is making its second straight appearance in the World Cup.

Group A: Venezuela, Poland, China and Ivory Coast.

"It's a greater sense of honor to be playing for your country", Bryant said.

There is an added incentive for teams at this World Cup, with seven spots at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics up for grabs. "When you start out the game, you hear your national anthem being played, you see everybody in the arena with their flags representing their country and colour, it's just such a great honour to be a part of that".

On August 31 they play Australia in the opening game of Group H. Lithuania will be their next opponents on September 2nd and they'll round out their first three games with Senegal on September 4th.

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