Serbians to boost Philippine 3x3 bid

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

The Philippines will be among 20 countries playing in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in India this March with three tickets up for grabs to make it to the men’s 3x3 event at the 2020 Tokyo Games and Bounty Agro Ventures president Ronald Mascarinas said the other day Chooks To Go is pulling out all the stops to guarantee that the national team is ready for battle.

So far, four entries are confirmed for the men’s 3x3 competition in Tokyo – host Japan, Serbia, Russia and China. Aside from Japan’s automatic berth as host, the other countries qualified outright on the basis of the 3x3 individual world ranking points of their top 100 players and 3x3 activity of each national federation. After the India skirmishes, only one spot will be left in the event. That spot will be given to the winner of the Universality Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Budapest in April.

In the India OQT for men, the Philippines is bracketed in Group C with Slovenia, France, Qatar and Dominican Republic. There are five teams in each of the four groups. The top two finishers of every group in the eliminations will advance to the eight-team KO quarterfinals then the four survivors play in the semifinals to determine the finalists. A playoff for third will decide the last qualifier.

“Preparation is very important,” said Mascarinas. “We’re not wanting in terms of skills. In Europe, dedicated players make 3x3 their career. In fact, FIBA provides a monthly allowance for the world’s top 20 3x3 players. We committed to SBP and FIBA to create a platform for 3x3 on a year-long basis and we’ve done our part to bring up the Philippines’ world 3x3 ranking from No. 60 when we started our 3x3 season to No. 20 now. We had to be among the top 24 to play in the OQT so it’s mission accomplished. That meant putting up three conferences in our first 3x3 season – the President’s Cup, Patriot’s Cup and Magiting Cup. Last January, we staged the biggest 3x3 tournament in the world with 3,000 kids playing simultaneously in over 100 courts in Cebu. That was the start of our drive.”

The composition of a national 3x3 team is based on FIBA world 3x3 rankings.  A lineup must include two players in the top 10 3x3 national rankings and the other two in the top 50 or must claim at least 54,000 points in the FIBA individual honor roll as of June 22, 2020. Among the top 10 in the Philippine rankings are Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, Santi Santillan and Troy Rike. 

Mascarinas said Chooks will assemble a pool of eight players to prepare for the OQT with Kobe Paras and Thirdy Ravena invited to join. Eric Altamirano will coach the pool. “I’ve spoken with Thirdy and he’s willing to help, maybe until the OQT before training overseas,” said Mascarinas.

To train the national pool, Mascarinas signed up Serbian 3x3 specialist Stefan Stojavic, 30, and Novi Sad strength and conditioning coach Darko Krsman. They arrived in Manila last Wednesday. “They’ll be with us until the OQT in March,” said Mascarinas. “Serbia has already qualified so Stefan and Darko will help us win our group. Stefan has played against France and he knows how to beat them. It’s not easy playing 3x3. We’re used to 5x5 and 3x3 is a different game. The playmaking and speed are at a different level.”

Mascarinas said the pool is open to PBA players. “We saw how PBA players dominated the SEA Games in 3x3,” he said. “But we need to prepare our pool now and full-time commitment is critical. It’s a welcome development that PBA will launch its own 3x3 league. That will build up our FIBA ranking points and put more players in the individual rankings. For our part, we will align our 3x3 season with MPBL next year with 12 teams. Sen. Manny (Pacquiao) will allow MPBL players to be excused from their teams if there is a conflict with our 3x3 schedule.”

Mascarinas said he has invested a tidy sum in 3x3 this year. “We’re taking care of eight players in our pool,” he said. “We held the Super Quest and Manila Challenger tournaments. We sent teams to play abroad. Next year, we’re committed to host a level 10 World Tour leg and another Super Quest as an accredited private promoter by FIBA. We’re programming to hold at least 26 3x3 tournaments in the country so that would be every other week. In one or two years, we could be in the top four of the FIBA 3x3 world rankings. A Japanese promoter plans to put up an Asian 3x3 league to play home and away games all year round and we’ve been approached to join. We’ve expressed support and interest. There’s still no announcement on the criteria to qualify for the 2024 Olympics but we’ll try to earn a slot outright.”

Mascarinas said Chooks will always have a soft spot in its heart for athletes who’ve served the country. It’s why Gabe Norwood, Kiefer Ravena, Benjie Paras, Nikko Huelgas, Kai Sotto and Paul Desiderio are supported by Chooks. On Tuesday, Mascarinas said Chooks will formalize its partnership with MPBL. “We’ll be taking care of marketing, media and PR for MPBL when the Lakan Cup resumes on Dec. 16,” he said. “It’s a long-term partnership. MPBL is a good product with a built-in following because each team has a home base. Sen. Manny may even play in one of our 3x3 teams next season.”

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