MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will be represented by a young yet skilled group when the 2017 FIBA 3x3 World Cup opens on June 17 in Nantes, France.
Two-time UAAP champions Kiefer Ravena and Jeron Teng will be joined by prodigy Kobe Paras and Philippine 3x3 pioneer JR Quiñahan in the tournament, where they hope to earn a breakthrough medal for the nation.
"Kaming apat, this is an opportunity for us to showcase 'yung talent na pinagmamalaki namin pagdating sa 3x3," said Ravena, who teamed up with Teng last year in a 3x3 exhibition in Dubai. "Ibibigay namin 'yung best namin."
[For us four, this is an opportunity to showcase the talent that we believe we have in 3x3. We're going to give our best.]
"We're going to give our best, knowing it's for our country," said Teng. "We will do our best and we hope we'll make our nation proud."
Teng, Ravena, and Quiñahan have been practicing regularly for the past three weeks, with former National University head coach Eric Altamirano helping them learn the intricacies of 3x3 basketball. Paras joined them on Tuesday, having been busy in the United States where he recently signed to play collegiate basketball for CSUN.
Altamirano, who has been the mentor of many a 3x3 side in the nation, admits that the current crew is not the strongest team that the Philippines has ever sent to the tournament.
"But we were able to assemble the best available players for the 3x3," he assured. "Obviously, the team is very young, and mga bata pa sila compared sa mga kalaban nila sa FIBA World."
"But in terms of skills naman, they are all multi-skilled. They can play inside, they can play outside," he added.
Altamirano also noted that all of the players in the team already have 3x3 experience, which is crucial as they won't have trouble adjusting to the sport.
3x3 features a smaller court and a smaller ball than regular five-on-five basketball, among other differences. The game is a race to 21, but in case no team reaches that point total, then whoever scores more at the end of 10 minutes wins.
The group will fly to France very early on Friday morning, and will have a bye in their first game before playing two games the next day. They are grouped with Slovenia, Romania, El Salvador, and hosts France in Group B of the tournament.
They were unable to scout their foes – "We're coming in there blindly," Altamirano admitted – but he promised that they will give their all.
"I think the team is ready," he said. "I feel they will represent the country well."
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