3x3 champs appeal to NCAA, UAAP
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 10, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - FIBA-Asia U-18 boys 3x3 champion coach John Flores said yesterday he hopes the NCAA and UAAP will adjust the coming season’s playing schedules of the schools of the four Filipino cagers representing the country at the World Championships in Jakarta on Sept. 26-29.

Three of the four juniors play in the NCAA and one in the UAAP. Thirdy Ravena, 17, sees action for Ateneo while Arvin Tolentino, 17, is with San Beda College and Kobe Paras, 15, and Prince Rivero, 18, with La Salle Greenhills. The NCAA season opens June 22 and the UAAP June 29. Both leagues will take a break during the FIBA-Asia Championships here Aug. 1-11.

“This is a rare opportunity for our country to play in the World Championships,” said Flores. “We’re appealing to the NCAA and UAAP to adjust the schedule of the boys’ schools in the second round. Arvin is a key player with San Beda. I’m the La Salle Greenhills coach and we rely heavily on two of our players Prince and Kobe. Thirdy is also a vital player with Ateneo. Both the NCAA and UAAP will be at the tail-end of the second round when we are in Jakarta. We’ve asked assistance from the SBP and we understand (executive director) Mr. (Sonny) Barrios has already written the NCAA and UAAP about it.”

Flores said the Philippine U-16 team, where Paras also plays, is scheduled to compete in Jakarta on July 13-18 and coach Jamike Jarin is in a similar predicament. “The SBP has also asked the UAAP and NCAA to restudy their schedules as the national U-16 team leaves on July 12 and will be back July 20,” said Flores. “We are faced with international commitments and it’s a great opportunity for our boys to represent our country.”

Flores recently piloted the Philippines to the FIBA-Asia U-18 boys 3x3 title in Bangkok. The Philippines beat India, 21-19, in the finals. Both the Philippines and India will represent Asia at the 32-team World Championships in Jakarta. It will be the third edition of the annual tournament that began in Rimini, Italy, in 2011 when New Zealand bagged the crown with Bulgaria placing second and Italy third. Serbia took the title in the second World Championships in Alcobendas, Spain, last year with the US finishing second and France third. The top teams in the Jakarta tournament will advance to play at the World Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, next year.

In Jakarta, FIBA will invite cagers from the 32 countries to participate in a dunk contest and a mixed event featuring a boy and girl in a 2Ball competition where players alternate in shooting from three spots within a 60-second limit. Aside from the boys tournament, the U-18 festival will run a 3x3 competition for 24 girls teams.

Flores said winning the FIBA-Asia title was no cakewalk. The Philippines lost its opening game to Qatar, 17-14, with all four players fouling out, prompting officials to call off the contest. But the Filipinos clawed their way back into contention, beating Chinese-Taipei, 20-18, in overtime on Paras’ two-pointer (under 3x3 rules, a triple counts for two points), Syria, 17-13, Indonesia, 20-13, Japan, 21-18, and China, 22-18, before the finals showdown with India.

“Our liaison officer couldn’t be found to arrange practices for our team,” said Flores. “Luckily, Thirdy’s mother Mozzy was with us and she knows the owner of a school in Bangkok. Through Mozzy, we were able to practice at the school’s gym with a size 6 basketball which is used in 3x3 competitions. The school also provided us with a team to practice with so that kept us sharp for the tournament.”

Flores said the semifinal win over China was tense from start to finish. “We led all the way from 4-0 although they tied it at 7-all then we went on a 3-0 run,” said Flores. “We were up against a 6-9, 6-8, 6-7 and 6-1. In their previous games, China shot a lot from the outside and drove hard to the basket. Against us, they posted up because we’re smaller. But our boys outsmarted them. Prince would body up against the Chinese post player then step back when he backed in so he would lose his balance. They did other things that they learned from playing streetball and the Chinese couldn’t adjust. With a minute left, two of our players had fouled out so it was two against three. China also lost two players on fouls so we ended up playing two-on-two. In the final play, Arvin drew an unsportsmanlike foul from a Chinese player and the referee gave us two free throws which was why we scored 22 points when 3x3 is just a race to 21. After the game, the Chinese players refused to shake our hands.”

Mozzy Ravena said her son Thirdy plays a different style than older brother Kiefer, now an Ateneo senior varsity star. “Thirdy is more athletic than Kiefer who is more cerebral,” she said. “I see Thirdy enjoying a long playing career while Kiefer will eventually go into coaching. As a young boy, Kiefer was already viewing game tapes, studying moves and discussing strategies with (his father) Bong. He has a high basketball IQ and understands strategies, tactics and tendencies like a coach.”

Rivero’s father Paolo said his son is slowly maturing into a power forward. Paolo’s three sons Prince, Rasheed and Ricci are playing with La Salle Greenhills in the NCAA juniors this season, probably a first for three brothers to suit up on the same varsity team. Paras’ father Benjie said he’s proud of his son Kobe’s achievements following in the footsteps of another son Andre, now with the UP senior varsity in the UAAP. “I think I’m handsomer but Kobe is a better player,” chuckled the two-time PBA MVP.

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