MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATED) For the first time ever, the UAAP will hold a 3x3 basketball tournament.
The one-day event will be held on March 4 at the Mall of Asia Music Hall, with seven men's teams and eight women's teams participating. Only University of Santo Tomas (UST) is not sending a representative to the men's tournament.
For UAAP executive director Rebo Saguisag, the inclusion of 3x3 as a demonstration sport is another step forward for the league, especially with 3x3 now an Olympic event.
Yet the youthful commissioner noted that 3x3 also harkens back to the roots of the game, when players would face off in the streets with nothing but pride at stake.
"We're going back to our roots," Saguisag said in a brief press conference at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Capitol Commons on Thursday afternoon. "Even before I played 5-on-5, tatluhan po muna."
"Naglaro kami para sa ice tubig, sa lusutan. 'Pag dumayo kayo, Coke 500 or Coke Litro ang labanan. It was a rite of passage. Manhood was measured by how good you were in the basketball court," he added.
The teams are divided into two groups and will compete in a single round elimination. The top two teams will then advance to the crossover, knockout semis. The finals will also be a one-game affair.
Ateneo de Manila University, Adamson University, De La Salle University and University of the East (UE) make up Group A of the men’s division, while Far Eastern University (FEU), National University (NU), and University of the Philippines (UP) are in Group B.
In the women’s division, Ateneo, Adamson, La Salle and UE are in Group A, while FEU, NU, UP, and UST are in Group B.
UP and La Salle loom as the teams to beat in the men's division as they are sending full strength squads. La Salle will be represented by former Rookies of the Year Andrei Caracut and Aljun Melecio, as well as versatile big men Justine Baltazar and Leonard Santillan.
UP, for its part, will be anchored by Season 80 Rookie of the Year Juan Gomez de Liano, already a veteran of international 3x3 tournaments. He will be joined by his older brother, Javi, big man Gelo Vito, and point guard Jun Manzo.
UE will be represented by its scoring machine Alvin Pasaol and veterans Philip Manalang, Mark Maloles, and Jason Varilla. FEU is also sending UAAP veterans in Wendel Comboy, Richard Escoto, and Kenneth Tuffin along with Michael John Casino.
Adamson will be represented by Brendan Matthew Espeleta, Jasper Jude Longalong, June Rey Buenaventura, and Lenda Demercia Douanga. Ateneo is sending Rodney Manule, Dan Wong, Gabe Natividad, and Quintin Banzon.
NU will be represented by JP Cauilan, Marc Joper Diputado, Theo Flores, and Anthony Sistoza.
Saguisag warned that schools that sent their Team B players cannot be underestimated.
"On paper, it would seem that they sent the Team B or the lesser-known players," he said. "But you cannot speculate the motive behind that. A good player in a 5-on-5 setting will not be necessarily good in the 3x3."
Meanwhile, NU appears to be the odds-on favorite in the women's division. They will be represented by Jack Animam, Ria Nabalan, Annick Tiky, and the comebacking Afril Bernardino.
Bernardino, a three-time MVP in the women's division, has exhausted her eligibility in the 5-on-5 event but can still play in 3x3, according to FEU athletic director Mark Molina.
The rest of the women's teams are as follows: Adamson (Jonalyn Lacson, Jaime Alcoy, April Cabug, Nathalia Prado); Ateneo (Katirna Guytingco, Johanne Nimes, Nicole Cancio, Jhazmine Jason); La Salle (Vea Malarde, Lauryn del Campo, Angel Figueroa, Marga Jimenez); FEU (Claire Castro, Princess Jumuad, Valerie Mamaril, Fatima Quiapo).
UE will be represented by Christine Cortizano, Joyce Francisco, Princess Pedregosa, and Anne Requiron. UP is sending Lourdes Ordoveza, Justine Domingo, Christine Isip, and Gene Amar. UST, meanwhile, will be represented by Angelica Anies, Jhenn Angeles, Karla Manuel, and Maria Sangalang.
Games start at 9 a.m. and will be streamed live on sports.abs-cbn.com.
REGULAR SPORT IN SEASON 81
UAAP stakeholders are confident that 3x3 basketball will be added to the collegiate league's calendar as a regular sport next season, after seeing the positive response of member schools to the inaugural edition of the event.
As 3x3 is only a demonstration sport in Season 80, it will not count towards the general championship and eligibility rules that govern the other sports are not applied.
"As long as the students are involved in the school, puwede maglaro," said FEU athletic director Mark Molina.
But Molina and Saguisag are almost certain that 3x3 basketball will become a regular sport as soon as Season 81.
"It will depend on the success and the recommendation of the executive director," said Saguisag, who is also the commissioner of the basketball tournaments. "But we're very positive. Everybody's very excited."
Molina added that it should not be difficult to make 3x3 a regular sport as they only need the approval of four schools.
"We're already at eight," he pointed out. "Ang UST (University of Santo Tomas), sa women's naman kasali sila."
"All eight schools are participating, and there is no reason for the school not to join because there is no added budget. The players are already there, and the players are often free at this time of the year," Molina added.
"There's a big chance it will be a regular sport."
If and when it is approved as a regular sport, 3x3 basketball will most likely be held during the second semester, according to Molina.
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