Tough challenge for 3x3 team
MANILA, Philippines — SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said yesterday it’s all business in preparing the Philippine team for the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Bengaluru, India, on March 18-22 with two Serbian trainors and four Serbian players in town to assist in the country’s bold bid to make it to Tokyo Games this year.
“This project is a collaborative effort among all stakeholders with SBP taking the lead,” said Barrios. “We formed a selection committee to choose the four players to represent us in the OQT and we’ve sent the lineup to FIBA. 3x3 is very different from 5x5. No such banana as a 3x3 coach in the open category. FIBA requires only a four-man roster, that’s all, no coaches, no officials. In 5x5, it’s 12 players, head coach, assistant coach and others. SBP is the only body authorized to put up a national team.”
The selection committee was made up of Barrios as chairman, Ronnie Magsanoc, Eric Altamirano, Pat Aquino and Jong Uichico. “Ronnie, Eric, Pat and Jong understand the 3x3 game,” said Barrios. “They’re experienced coaches. Under FIBA rules, two of the four players in the lineup must be ranked in the country’s top 10 3x3 standings and two others may be random. Our No. 1 ranked player Joshua Munzon and No. 2 Alvin Pasaol were shoo-ins. No deliberations on their selection. The decision was unanimous. Then, we looked at the four who represented us and won the gold in 3x3 at the recent Southeast Asian Games. It was decided to name C. J. Perez and Mo Tautuaa.”
Barrios said the PBA Board of Governors, headed by chairman Ricky Vargas, has expressed full support for the 3x3 drive and agreed to lend any pros to the OQT despite the conflict in schedule with the new PBA season that opens March 8. “Four PBA players were on our SEA Games team, C. J., Mo, Chris Newsome and Jason Perkins,” said Barrios. “When we reached out to C. J. and Mo, agad-agad, they were on board. They both realized how prestigious the OQT is and the possibility that if we’re successful, they could become Olympians.” SBP president Al Panlilio is also a member of the PBA Board as Meralco representative.
It was only last Wednesday that the four players got together for their first practice along with eight others in the Chooks To Go 3x3 pool at the RONAC gym. SBP director of operations Butch Antonio attended the first practice. The next day, Barrios himself came for the afternoon workout. “SBP wants to be physically present at every practice if only to emphasize the importance of this effort to qualify for the Olympics,” he said. “We’ve got only 2 1/2 weeks left to get ready for the OQT and we’re losing C. J. to Gilas for a few days because of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifier against Indonesia in Jakarta tomorrow (Sunday). It’s a tough challenge but the guys are working hard. Even our Gilas coaching staff had only a few weeks to prepare for Jakarta.”
Barrios said the FIBA deadline to make changes in the four-man lineup is March 10. “If we replace anyone from the four players we initially submitted, we can only bring in a player from the top 10 rankings,” he said. “God forbid, we don’t suffer any injuries or sickness. Luckily, Eric and his group started practice last November and the two Serbian trainors have been with us since early December. Our two PBA players, C. J. and Mo, are pros and their learning curve is quite high. The key is to play their hearts out. They’re all committed to do that.”
The two Serbian trainors are 3x3 specialist Stefan Stojavic and Novi Sad strength/conditioning coach Darko Krsman. The four Serbian players are 6-9 Teodor Atanasov, 6-0 Nebojsa Kilijan, 6-7 Marko Brankovic and 6-4 Vladimir Trajkovic. Bounty Agro Ventures/Chooks To Go president Ronald Mascarinas arranged the Serbians’ visit. The others in the 3x3 pool, with their ranking, are No. 3 Dylan Ababou, No. 4 Karl Dehesa, No. 5 Santi Santillan, No. 7 Christian Paolo de Chavez, No. 10 Gab Banal, No. 11 Leo de Vera, No. 12 Ryan Monteclaro and No. 13 Jaypee Belencion. Three players in the top 10 rankings are not eligible – No. 6 Troy Rike, No. 8 Frank Johnson and No. 9 Roosevelt Adams.