MANILA, Philippines -- Filipino gamers received an opportunity to showcase their skills on a global level when the Philippines was included in the roster of countries competing in the first-ever FIBA esports Open.
The e-basketball games will be held from June 19 to 21, to be played remotely on NBA 2K using the Pro-Am mode. Players are allowed full customization of avatars, uniforms, and arena designs.
Representing the Philippines in the pilot project are: Rocky "Rak" Brana, Philippe "Izzo" Alcaraz IV, Clark Banzon, Al "ALT" Timajo, Aljon "Shintarou" Cruzin, Rial Polog Jr., and Custer "Aguila" Galas. The players, who all have a rating of 99, were formally welcomed into the Philippine basketball family on Wednesday.
"Today, it's an extraordinary time, an extraordinary day that we see sports and esports truly blend," said Al Panlilio, president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
SBP executive director Sonny Barrios called the esports Open a "very welcome development."
"In my many years in basketball, I never imagined the game will be played, where height is not might," he said. "You don't need brawn or height -- you only need to play smart."
The esports athletes, who have been playing NBA 2K since 2002, are determined to prove that the Filipinos' skill and passion for the sport of basketball extend to the virtual world. All of the team members are veterans who have previously competed in international NBA 2K tournaments.
Polog was even included in the 2019 NBA 2K League Draft pool.
"We've been running (together) for years, since Day 1," Polog said of their team. "We had the same goal and same dream na we will represent our country, and today, the dream is now a reality. I'm feeling honored, and sobrang saya po."
Alcaraz admits that they feel the pressure in representing the country on a global scale, but he is confident in the team that they have put together.
"I feel honored and confident in leading these talented individuals in this tournament," he said. "Medyo may pressure kasi we're not just playing for ourselves, we're playing for the country."
"We'll try our best to really showcase the Filipino gamers' competence through this tournament," he vowed.
The Philippine team is matched up against Southeast Asian rival Indonesia in the competition.
They have already played a couple of "scrimmages" against their opponents, and Alcaraz was coy when asked about their chances.
"I won't say much," he said. "They're a good team, (but) their strengths and weaknesses, I won't divulge. But they're a good team."
Aside from the Philippines and Indonesia, other teams competing in the event are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Cyprus, Italy, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, New Zealand, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine.
The entire FIBA esports Open 2020 series will be produced from the brand-new FIBA esports Studio located in Riga, Latvia, with a daily four-hour show featuring up to six games. Each game will be livestreamed on FIBA's Facebook, Twitch and YouTube channels with live commentary in English.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).