MANILA, Philippines -- Joshua Munzon, the country's top 3x3 player, made a seamless transition back into the halfcourt game during the national 3x3 team's seven-day camp at the Inspire Sports Academy last week.
Before he was taken by the TerraFirma Dyip as the top overall pick in the recent PBA Rookie Draft, Munzon made a name for himself in the 3x3 circuit and emerged as the top-ranked player in the Philippines.
"I definitely can say that it felt natural," Munzon said of his return to 3x3. "Just going out there was like riding a bike. I can't say it was easy but we were able to shake off some rust."
Joining Munzon in the camp were: 30th Southeast Asian Games gold medalists CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa; PH no. 6 Karl Dehesa; and no. 8 Santi Santillan. Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) 3x3 basketball program director Ronnie Magsanoc, who will serve as head coach of the team, conducted the drills.
The camp was done in preparation for the 2021 FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament which takes place from May 26 to 30 in Graz, Austria.
Though the first half of the camp only lasted for seven days, Munzon said that twice-a-day sessions they had were both brutal and fruitful.
"It was very productive and we were able to accomplish a lot. Good to be around a lot of people after being locked out for so long," said the 6-foot-4 gunner out of Long Beach, California.
"We were able to shake the rust off and have an idea on what our offense and defense will be," he added.
The team left the Inspire facility on Saturday but will return later this week after taking care of the requirements for their travel to Austria.
For Munzon, the second phase of their camp will be crucial for building their chemistry as well as sharpening their conditioning. The team is also set to welcome Alvin Pasaol, the No. 2 player in the country, to camp when they return.
"I just think we just continue to build on what we have been working on, the chemistry and just be better," he said.
Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 will face Slovenia and Qatar on the 26th and France and the Dominican Republic on the 28th in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Having faced the world's best in FIBA 3x3's pro circuit, Munzon knows the quality of the opposition. This time around, however, he knows that there will be more pressure on his shoulders as only three teams will advance to Tokyo.
"This is very big," said the 26-year-old. "I can say that this is the biggest opportunity I have had in my career. Truly a huge honor and the possibility of being in the Olympics is something that I never thought I would be in."
"I'm very grateful to Boss Al [Panlilio, president of the SBP], Boss Butch [Antonio, SBP executive director], and Coach Ronnie for keeping this OQT dream alive. We all know how hard it is to train in this pandemic but they were able to do it," Munzon added.
"It's amazing to be part of this and to be in this position. We hope to make the country proud."