MANILA, Philippines -- Manila Chooks TM faces a tall task when it competes in the 2021 FIBA 3X3 World Tour Abu Dhabi Masters on Friday.
The team is grouped with world No. 4 Liman of Serbia and No. 5 Amsterdam Talent&Pro of the Netherlands in Pool D.
The Philippine-side will hit the halfcourt against Liman on Friday at 10:20 p.m. (Manila time) before facing Amsterdam at 2:45 a.m. (October 30 in Manila).
Manila Chooks is composed of Chico Lanete, Mac Tallo, Zach Huang, and 6-foot-6 Cameroonian Mike Nzeusseu.
"Nakikita ko si Mike nung naglalaro siya sa Lyceum and sabi ko nga I’m thankful na hindi ko siya inabot doon noong nasa NCAA pa kami," said Manila Chooks head trainer Aldin Ayo, who coached Colegio de San Juan de Letran for one season.
"Nandoon sa kanya 'yung materials na pwede mo talaga gamitin sa 3x3. He’s big, he’s agile, he’s an athlete, he’s skilled," Ayo said of Nzeusseu who helped Lyceum of the Philippines University make two NCAA finals appearances.
The team arrived in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday morning and will be quarantined until their RT-PCR test results come out at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Resort.
Manila Chooks is also waiting on whether Nzeusseu can play in the maximum level tournament as he suffered a left hand injury during the semifinals of the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 Invitational last October 20.
Injury reserve Mark Yee also made the trip with the team. The deadline for the final lineup is on Thursday during the technical meeting.
Not having Nzeusseu will be a tough blow for Manila Chooks as Liman will still be headlined by world No. 4 Mihailo Vasic, who stands at 6-foot-6. The rest of Liman are 6-foot-4 Aleksandar Ratkov (world No. 11), 6-foot-6 Stefan Kojic (No. 13), and 6-foot Nebojsa Kilijan (No. 23).
Ayo will also be calling the shots in Abu Dhabi.
"First time nating lumabas ngayong pandemic eh so well excited kasi 'yung competition nandoon eh and it’s different if you’re not with them and it’s really difficult to motivate them 'pag nasa Zoom ka lang eh," said Ayo.
"It will be a good opportunity tapos maga-guide mo sila personally so good thing na makakasama."
World No. 10 Arvin Slagter will lead Amsterdam and will be joined by Dimeo van der Horst (No. 12), Julian Jaring (No. 14), and Maksim Kovacevic (No. 15).
Other teams in this tournament are: Serbia's Ub, Puerto Rico's San Juan, and Russia's Gagarin (Pool A); Latvia's Riga, Saudi Arabia's Jeddah, and Mongolia's Ulaanbaatar (Pool B); and Belgium's Antwerp, USA's Princeton, and the winner of the qualifying draw between Netherland's Utrecht, Japan's Minakami, and host Abu Dhabi (Pool C).
At stake is the top prize of $40,000 to the champion.
Also competing in the dunk contest is Filipino David Carlos, who returns to the world stage after two years.