MANILA, Philippines – The recently concluded FIBA 3x3 Basketball World Cup made it very clear that the Philippines still has some work to do before it can compete against some of the best teams in the world in the discipline.
Making their very first appearance in the 3x3 World Cup, the women's team were inspiring and impressive, but still went winless in their campaign. Afterward, the Filipina ballers implored to be given more opportunities to gain the experience they need to compete at the international level.
The men's team, meanwhile, finished 11th overall after going 2-2 in group play. They suffered a pair of heartbreaking losses to Mongolia and Canada, two veteran teams that were well-versed to the intricacies of the 3x3 discipline. Though the Filipinos ended their campaign with a win over Russia, the players also rued their lack of experience in 3x3 basketball afterward.
The eventual champions of the tournament agreed that both the Philippine men's and women's teams still had plenty to learn about 3x3 basketball, which is quite different from the 5-on-5 version of the game.
"They are good 5-on-5 players," Serbia's Dusan Bulut said of the Philippine men's team. "(But) I think they need to learn much more about this game (3x3)."
Bulut, who said that he had hoped to see the Philippines in the final, noted that bringing 5-on-5 players to play 3x3 basketball is a tactic that is not guaranteed to work – no matter how talented the Filipino ballers were.
"As you see, Russia came with 5-on-5 players, and they didn't make it out of the group," he said. "Philippines came with the professional 5-on-5 players, they didn't make it out of their group."
Russia's campaign in the 3x3 World Cup was a disappointment. Seeded third overall, they won just one game – a 20-16 result over Brazil in Pool C – and was routed by the Philippines in their last assignment. They finished the event ranked 12th overall.
Bulut pointed out that the top teams in the tournament featured players who are "professionals in this sport." For instance, he and his teammates compete in the 3x3 world circuit virtually all year long. The Netherlands, who settled for silver for the second year in a row, featured three players who were ranked in the world's Top 50.
Equally impressive were Slovenia, which has four players in the Top 11, and finished in third place in the tournament.
"It's a big difference, right now, between 3x3 and 5-on-5 players," Bulut stressed.
Asked if they had any advice for the Philippines with its 3x3 program, Serbian's Dejan Majstorovic was blunt. "They need to work hard, like we do," he said. "And they need to be in 3x3 if they want to have better results."
For her part, Rae Lin D'Alie – the star of the Italian team that ruled the women's tournament – was impressed with the competitive spirit shown by the Filipinas. "A lot of heart," she noted.
D'Alie, who was the shortest player in the tournament at only 5-foot-4, said the Filipinas were clearly talented and skilled – they just needed more exposure, much like Italy did when they first began to invest in 3x3.
"That's how we started – we ain't winning tournaments. We would arrive in like, 20th," said D'Alie, who became a crowd favorite during the five-day event. "Then (we won) a little bit more. A couple of years passed, and we were eighth."
"Then a couple of more years passed, and we were fifth," she said. "Then this year came, and now we're first."
The Philippines can make a similar trek up the standings, said D'Alie.
"You just keep grinding," she advised. "You just keep believing, you keep putting yourself around the right people who believe in you, and fruit will come."
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is expected to meet soon to discuss the next steps for the country's 3x3 basketball program.
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