MANILA, Philippines – The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Monday bared its intentions to create a "different roadmap" for 3x3 basketball after both the Philippine men's and women's teams failed to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup.
The women's team, seeded last among 20 teams, was far more competitive than initially expected but still lost all four of their games. Meanwhile, the men's team went 2-2 in pool play, losing in heartbreaking fashion to Canada on Monday to bow out of the race for the last 8.
Speaking to reporters after the Philippine men lost to Canada, 20-19, SBP president Al Panlilio said their organization is determined to elevate the level of 3x3 basketball in the country after witnessing world-class action over the past few days at the Philippine Arena.
"It opens the minds and the thinking of SBP on really creating a different roadmap for the 3x3, separate from Gilas (Pilipinas)," Panlilio said Monday. "I think that's the next thing we should do after this World Cup."
"How do we bring up the level of 3x3 to the levels of what we see here today?" he added.
Panlilio noted that in terms of talent and skills, the Philippines can keep up with the best men's and women's teams in the world. However, their lack of experience in the 3x3 game was what doomed them, particularly when games went down the wire.
The men's team, in particular, lost in gutting fashion to Canada after losing grip of an 18-16 lead in the final 90 seconds of their showdown, and gave up the game-winning lay-up with just 3.2 second to play.
"It's really the experience that the others have in playing 3x3. Ibang-iba talaga 'yung laro, it's very different," said Panlilio.
"Christian (Standhardinger) was saying, 'Boss Al, if we just had one tournament to practice in and participate before the World Cup, and really address those experience issues, it would have been a big help,'" he added.
Thus, what's crucial for the national team is to gain that experience if they hope to compete at a higher level not just in the next FIBA 3x3 World Cup, but also in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics where 3x3 basketball will be played for the very first time.
"It's a commitment for SBP now, to really take a look at how we can create a roadmap to the Olympics," said Panlilio. "Maybe, 2020 is a bit of a short runway, but we will try our very best."
"But if not for Tokyo, then maybe the next Olympics in 2024 (in Paris)," he added.
So far, the SBP has yet to come up with truly concrete steps regarding the 3x3 program, but they intend to brainstorm once the World Cup is over. The first order of business, according to Panlilio, is to identify players who can dedicate themselves to 3x3 rather than 5-on-5.
"It's really creating a different path for 3x3, from the Gilas program. That's the challenge," said Panlilio, noting that some of the best players in the world – notably Serbia's Dusan Bulut – plays 3x3 exclusively rather than 5-on-5.
"He (Bulut) earns money playing the game. He earns money through the tournaments that he joins, and if they win the prize money, that's earning, and he also gets endorsements. So there is potentially a path, or a career (in 3x3)," he explained.
It will be ideal if the SBP can create a pool of players specifically for 3x3 basketball, which is separate from the Gilas Pilipinas pool for 5-on-5 tournaments.
Troy Rosario, another member of the 3x3 team, has already expressed his support for this idea.
"Sa tingin ko, 'yung pool kailangan, 'yung may pool sa Gilas, na selection para sa FIBA 5-on-5, sa tingin ko kailangan din ng pool para sa 3x3," said Rosario.
Panlilio knows that creating a dedicated team just for 3x3 is vital if the Philippines hopes to be successful in the discipline, but he also stressed that they "need to make it interesting for Filipino basketball players to focus themselves on 3x3."
His hope is that Filipino ballers will see 3x3 as the country's pathway to the Olympics, and thus be more open to playing there, too, instead of pouring all of their energies on the 5-on-5 version of the game.
"If you have a bigger chance to go to the Olympics playing 3x3, I think that's one big encouragement or incentive for people to really take a look at it seriously," said Panlilio.
In the meantime, Panlilio is calling on all Filipino ballers who play 3x3 to do their part in hiking the Philippines' federation ranking.
As it stands, the Philippines is ranked 48th in the men's division, and 49th in the women's. This went a long way in their low seeding in the 2018 FIBA 3x3 Basketball World Cup.
But the Philippines can easily rise up the rankings, according to Panlilio. The way the federation ranking works, it rewards "elite performances of the players, but also the 3x3 activity in the territory of each national federation."
Thus, the Filipinos need to register their games to the 3x3 database whenever they play in the tournament, thus earning points for the country.
"We need to register those games with FIBA. They have an app where you register tournaments, and you register plyers, and we do that every day," said Panlilio.
"We have 25 million Filipinos in Metro Manila alone, I'm sure playing 3-on-3 every weekend, so we just have to register that. And if you do that, then our ranking will go higher," he added.
Defending 3x3 world champion Serbia is the No. 1 ranked men's team, while China is the No. 1 ranked women's team.
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