FIBA 3x3: Where the action is
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2018 - 12:00am

The FIBA 3x3 World Cup revealed many things about the status of the game in the Philippines. Of course, there is disappointment that both the Philippine men’s and women’s teams did not get past the elimination round. No amount of coloring it as a learning experience will change that. The public was frustrated that the players had little preparation, but simultaneously lauded their effort. The players did their best despite limitations that were not their fault.

What is encouraging, on the other hand, is that Filipino players can keep in step with the top teams in Asia and the world. What more if the teams had had actual game experience? What more if they specialized in 3x3? This has been the common call of the players themselves, the media, and learned observers. The country’s shortcuts did not work this time, simply because 3x3 is already so far removed from the mother game. 

If we are clear about wanting to qualify for the Olympic basketball tournament, then it shouldn’t matter whether it is in five-on-five or 3x3. The Philippines, at this stage of its redevelopment, will not win an Olympic medal in either event, but let’s take it one step at a time. Angola qualified for the Olympic tournament in the 1990’s, and reached as high as 11th in the world, despite having played organized basketball for less than 30 years. They did not have any seven-footers, and only two of their players were trained in the US college system. What they had was a platoon of lean, tireless young players who jumped and ran relentlessly. They wore opponents out with their boundless energy. They played according to the material they had. In a parallel vein, that’s what Mongolia has been doing. Yet, they barely beat the Philippines. One can only postulate what a difference extra three months of practice or one international exposure could have made.

What now? 

The clamor is to create a separate program for 3x3, teams that will train and compete exclusively in the sport. The good news is that each will be less expensive than a full-blown five-on-five team. Less cost for food, travel, training, nutrition. Less cost for salaries. But this creates a whole new set of challenges. There is no permanent, organized league for 3x3. This means there is no regular TV coverage, no regular fan base, no regular sponsors. There’s none of the infrastructure that supports five-on-five.

But there is an alternative. The team or teams formed could barnstorm as either the national team or as a club team. Selected tournaments could be televised. It’s a formula that has worked somewhat for the Azkals.

The FIBA website states “The FIBA 3x3 World Tour is the pinnacle event of an ‘open’ network of FIBA-endorsed 3x3 tournaments. Any group of four players – regardless of their nationality and representing a city – can qualify for the FIBA 3x3 World Tour by taking part in a lower level/regional tournament, eventually making their way to the world stage.”

This could be an entry point for a Philippine team, and may also serve as a screening process for willing players. Each stage of the qualifiers for World Tour is open to anyone. Therefore, even privately sponsored teams can join. All the sponsors need is media exposure. If the basketball community could rally behind these teams (with support from the Philippine Sports Commission perhaps, aside from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas), the campaign would be off to a great start. Recruitment would be the first step.

Players would have to be taller than average (at least three bigs out of the four players), with outside shooting and ball-handling. Most of all, they would have to be conditioned not to complain over non-calls. The game allows more contact, and the transitions are so fast, the other team can score by the time you finish whining.

So now, the SBP has to decide on a 3x3 program, find willing players and coaches, and match them with a sponsor. As they’ve done with five-on-five, they’ll put our teams in a position to win.

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The second round of try-outs/auditions for the basketball film “1936: The Islanders in Berlin” will be held tonight at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium from 6 to 10 p.m. The production team is casting for actors and athletes (not necessarily basketball players) to portray players (and coaches) from the Philippines, Mexico, Estonia, Italy, Uruguay, the US and Canada, and other supporting roles. Those auditioning as players must be in basketball attire.

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