FIBA: Gilas 3x3 undaunted by tall odds in Olympic qualifiers

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2021 04:15 PM

FIBA: Gilas 3x3 undaunted by tall odds in Olympic qualifiers 1
The Philippine delegation to the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament left on Sunday night for Graz, Austria. Handout photo

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine national 3x3 team was in good spirits when they departed for Graz, Austria on Sunday night to compete in the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The Gilas 3x3 pool -- Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, Moala Tautuaa, CJ Perez, and Santi Santillan -- was accomplished by coach Ronnie Magsanoc for the tournament. They arrived in Dubai earlier Monday for a layover before their flight to Vienna.

Before the OQT, the team spent nearly a month training at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna. The hope now is that their preparation will be enough to propel them into the knockout round of the qualifiers.

"Ito na 'yung magandang pagkakataon namin and ng Pilipinas," said Perez, who won a gold medal in 3x3 during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games with Tautuaa as one of his teammates, in an interview with One Sports.

"Malay natin, makarating kami sa Olympics," he added.

The Philippines faces tall odds to get one of the three Olympic berths at stake, however. They are pooled with powerhouse Slovenia and France, as well as Qatar and the Dominican Republic, in the group phase.

In an article on the FIBA 3x3 website, Slovenia was tabbed as a favorite to secure a spot in the Olympics, just behind the United States. 

"It's gonna be tough," admitted Munzon, the top 3x3 player in the Philippines and the No. 1 draft pick by TerraFirma in last March's PBA Rookie Draft.

"Those teams have already been playing this year, and they've been training a lot longer than we have," he pointed out. "But at the end of the day, we're gonna do all we can to go out three and bring home some Ws."

"We're gonna leave everything out there," Munzon vowed.

Pasaol, the No. 2 ranked player in the country, stressed that they cannot be counted out despite facing tough opposition.

"Sobrang lakas din ng team ng mga kalaban natin, pero hindi magpapatalo ang puso ng Pinoy," Pasaol guaranteed. "Sinasabi ko lang is, gagawin namin lahat para manalo at para maging proud ang lahat ng mga sumusuporta sa amin."

Pasaol and Munzon, together with Santillan, are veterans of the FIBA 3x3 pro circuit. They competed in several international FIBA 3x3 events before declaring for the PBA Rookie Draft, and won a championship together in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup last year where they beat the country's best 3x3 squads.

Perez is banking on their wealth of experience to guide both him and Tautuaa, who are relative newcomers to the halfcourt game.

"For sure naman sa paghahanda namin, may malaking chance kaming makapanalo ng games. And siyempre, 'yung mga kalaban namin, mga veterans talaga sa 3x3. Meron naman sila Josh at Santi at si Pasaol na magga-guide sa amin ni Mo," said Perez.

"Sa amin siguro, basta pumutok 'yung outside shooting namin at 'yung advantage namin na quickness, magiging okay kami doon," he added.

Gilas 3x3 takes on Slovenia and Qatar on May 26 before facing France and the Dominican Republic on May 28. 

The top two teams in the four groups will advance to the knockout stage on May 30. The podium finishers will then secure spots to the Tokyo Olympics.

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