By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

TEAM PHILIPPINES battles its counterpart from Indonesia when the inaugural FIBA Esports Open rolls off today.

A three-day event till June 21, the FIBA Esports Open 2020 is a pilot project by world basketball-governing body FIBA and its member federations in collaboration with NBA 2K.

The esports competition is angled to add further dimension to FIBA as an organization while also affording the basketball community some action after activities were halted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

It will feature teams from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Cyprus, Indonesia, Italy, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine.

For the competition each team will consist of seven players, five on the court and two reserves. Games will be played remotely on NBA 2K using the Pro-AM mode and allowing full customization of player avatars, uniforms and arena designs.

Carrying the banner for the Philippines in the Esports Open are seasoned e-gamers Aljon “Shintarou” Gruzin (point guard), Rial “Rial” Polog Jr. (shooting guard), Custer “Aguila” Galas (small forward), Rocky “Rak” Brana (center/power forward), Philippe “Izzo” Alcaraz Herrero IV (center), Clark “Clark” Banzon (power forward) and Al “Alt” Timajo (center/power forward).

Team coach is Nielie “Nite” Alparas, with Richard Brojan serving as team manager.

“I believe Team Pilipinas is a ‘dream team,’ and I’m just humbled that I’m part of this because I have been playing this game almost half of my life,” said team captain Herrero.

“With exceptional mechanics, good teamwork, and amazing teammates under my leadership, we can make it to the top. I’m just happy and excited to represent our country and make the Filipinos proud,” he added.

Team Philippines packs some solid credentials with Mr. Gruzin an eight-time NBA 2K Pro-AM champion; Mr. Polog the first Filipino player to be drafted in the NBA 2K league; Mr. Banzon an NBA 2K20 Global Championship representative; and Mr. Galas the NBA 2K Asia Champion.

“Our Team Pilipinas is on the cusp of something great here,” said Butch Antonio, Director of Operations — Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, of the team’s bid.

“The great thing about competing in the virtual realm of esports is that there’s no size mismatch, no height difference, there’s only the dedication and drive to win — something that our sportsmen have always had in spades,” he added.

During the exhibition games, Team Pilipinas will be playing five games head-to-head with Indonesia, beginning today at 6:30 p.m.

Team Pilipinas matches will be shown over the SBP Facebook page.

The entire FIBA Esports Open 2020 series will be produced from the brand-new FIBA Esports Studio located in Riga, Latvia.