MANILA, Philippines -- Ahead of its first conference, the PBA's professional 3x3 league is already being eyed as the venue to develop the country's future national team players in the event.
The league's first conference starts on November 20, with 13 teams set to compete. The draw was done on Saturday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig and at stake in the first leg is the top prize of P100,000.
"Sigurado po, makakatulong na malaki 'to sa programa ng federation," said Butch Antonio, deputy executive director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
"What is important, talagang ang tinitingnan natin, 'yung ating national team participation. And especially ngayon, ang forward thinking natin is supposed to be the 2024 Olympics," he added.
The Philippines competed in the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament last May, sending a team composed of PBA stars Moala Tautuaa and CJ Perez, and the top two 3x3 players in the country in Joshua Munzon and Alvin Pasaol.
Munzon and Pasaol achieved their ranking through their participation in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 events, through which they were invited to compete in FIBA 3x3 events as well.
It was not immediately clear how the SBP will reconcile having two professional 3x3 leagues; Chooks 3x3 recently held a one-day invitational tournament in October and sent a team, Manila Chooks TM, to the FIBA 3x3 Abu Dhabi Masters.
Ryan Gregorio, special assistant to SBP president Al Panlilio, said they will "gather more information" on the matter.
Nonetheless, Antonio said he hopes that the PBA 3x3 will produce players who can represent the country in international events -- not just the 2024 Olympics in Paris, but also the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam and the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China next year.
"We are working with the PBA, we are working with FIBA, and FIBA and the PBA are also working together to make sure that we get the most out of the PBA 3x3," said Antonio.
"Tawagin na natin (itong) programa. Hindi lang siya liga. It's also a program that will develop talent, find and develop talent, and eventually, hope that these young gentlemen here will represent us in the coming years, represent the country in the coming years," he said.
The Philippines won the gold medal in both men's and women's 3x3 in 2019, the first time that the event was contested in the biennial competition.
Ronnie Magsanoc, SBP's program director, shared Antonio's hopes even as he noted that only the country's Top 50 players will be qualified to play in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament for the Paris Games.
"Ating plano, kasama ng ating misyon, na sa hanay ng PBA 3x3 manggagaling ang top 50 ranked players sa buong bansa na siyang magiging basehan para sa karera ng Pilipinas to qualify for an Olympic qualifying slot, to be able to take part in the Olympics," he said.
"Masukal, mahirap, at napakaraming nakikipag-karera, pero may pag-asa ba? Naniniwala ako na sa tamang programa, sa matinding suporta, pwedeng mangyari," he added.
Aside from representing the country in the Olympics, SEA Games, and the Asiad, PBA 3x3 players can also play in FIBA 3x3 events, Magsanoc said.
"Ang magka-kampeon sa ating PBA 3x3, sa competition ng FIBA abroad. At magiging plano rin ng PBA 3x3, na dalhin din ang competition ng FIBA abroad dito sa Pilipinas," he said.
The top three teams in Pool A, and the top two teams in Pools B and C will advance to the quarterfinals. The third-ranked teams in Pools B and C will battle in a knockout game for the eighth quarterfinal slot.
The runner-up will get P50,000 and the third-place team, P30,000.