MANILA, Philippines -- The country's top 3x3 players, Joshua Munzon and Alvin Pasaol, are back in the swing of things after helping Zamboanga City Chooks rule the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup last week.
Together with Troy Rike and Santi Santillan, they took down Nueva Ecija in a thrilling final to win the P1-million top prize in the President's Cup, as well as the right to represent the Philippines in the Doha Masters later this month.
All these are in preparation for the FIBA 3x3 Olympic qualifying tournament (OQT) in Graz, Austria in May 2021. There, Pasaol and Munzon will team up with PBA stars CJ Perez of TerraFirma and Moala Tuatuaa of San Miguel Beer in a bid to earn a ticket to the Tokyo Games.
"I think kailangan namin sila. Early January pa lang, kailangan na namin siguro mag-practice about sa OQT," said Pasaol.
"Kailangan namin parating magpa-practice magkakasama, kasi wala din sila. Nasa kabilang bubble din sila," he added, referring to the PBA's set-up in Clark, Pampanga where the All-Filipino Cup is being held.
"So 'yun nga, i-work lang namin ang mga kailangan naming gawin para manalo sa OQT."
The quartet trained together in February, with Serbian player Stefan Stojacic serving as their coach. The novel coronavirus pandemic shuttered their plans, however, as the OQT -- originally scheduled for March 2020 in India -- was moved to May 2021 in Graz.
Munzon, still the top-ranked player in the country, shares Pasaol's sentiment in hoping that they can practice as a team again. At the moment though, he is pleased that all four of them are back in action after long months of inactivity.
"I think the most important thing is all four of us are active, after being quarantined for so many months earlier this year," he noted. "This was a step in the right direction -- us having these two weeks, and then Mo and CJ in the PBA, they're playing."
Perez is currently the league's second-leading scorer at 25.2 points per game, along with 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 2.8 steals per outing. Tautuaa, for his part, is embracing his bigger role in San Miguel in the absence of six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, and is now averaging 18.3 points and 7.3 boards per game for the Beermen.
"I think right now, I think the most important thing is we're all getting back in shape," Munzon stressed.
"And like Alvin said, hopefully sometime in January, we get together, get to practice and get to build that chemistry," he added. "January is a few months away from May, so you know, we'll have some time to be together and build the chemistry we need heading to the OQT."
There are only three tickets to the Tokyo Olympics at stake in the Graz qualifiers.