By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

WITH its roster finalized earlier this week, the Philippine team started work in preparation for the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) happening next month in India.

A day after being named to the team, the country’s top two 3×3 players Joshua Munzon and Alvin Pasaol worked out with teammates CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa from the Philippine Basketball Association on Wednesday at the Ronac gym in Mandaluyong City.

It was the first time that all four were together in training after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas called them up for national team duty on Tuesday to banner the country’s flag at the OQT in Bengaluru from March 18 to 22.

The end goal of the team is to win one of the three spots up for grabs in the tournament to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games, where 3×3 basketball is debuting, later this year.

Seeing his players at work for the first time as a group, national team head coach Stefan Stojacic said he is excited about the team’s potential but admitted work still needs to be done in the month-long preparation.

“This is the first practice that we have all the players that are part of the OQT. I am happy about that because it is still one month before the tournament. I think we still have enough time to cover everything,” said Mr. Stojacic, a veteran and successful campaigner in the 3×3 scene.

“CJ and Mo are new players in 3×3. They played in the SEA Games but that tournament is totally different from the international level of playing 3×3. But they have quality, very good players. Now, we have to change their mindset to 3×3,” added the coach.

Messrs. Perez and Tautuaa helped the Philippines win the gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, joining forces with fellow PBA players Jason Perkins and Chris Newsome.

Players Munzon and Pasaol, meanwhile, are staples in the local 3×3 scene and have steadily accumulated world ranking points and are currently the top players of the country.

During their first training, the nationals bowed to the all-star team of Vrbas’ Marko Brankovic (world no. 50), Ralja’s Nebojsa Kilijan (75), Belgrade’s Vladimir Trajkovic (116), and ex-Basilan import Marcus Hammonds (US no. 16), 13-16, to open the day.

Though eking out a 16-14 win over local top 10 players Troy Rike, Karl Dehesa, Franky Johnson, and Chris De Chavez, Gilas 3×3 would be handed a 9-11 loss to the visitors to cap the day.

The Philippines will open its OQT bid in Group C along with Slovenia, France, Qatar and the Dominican Republic.