THE national men’s 3x3 basketball team left for Graz, Austria, late on Sunday to compete at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament from May 26 to 30. — SAMAHANG BASKETBOL NG PILIPINAS

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

THE national men’s 3×3 basketball team broke training camp and left for Graz, Austria, at the weekend to compete at the International Basketball Federation  (FIBA) Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT).

Following a nearly one-month-long preparation at its training “bubble” at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Laguna, the team departed for the tournament late Sunday night, with the unit expressing readiness to go into battle.

The six-man team of coach Ronnie Magsanoc, regular members Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa, and reserve Leonard Santillan will carry the country’s flag in the OQT happening from May 26 to 30.

Unfortunately, one of the reserves, PBA free-agent Karl Dehesa, was not able to make the trip as he is still completing a 14-day quarantine due to “health and safety protocols.”

Mr. Magsanoc shared that their preparation was not without challenges amid the prevailing conditions with the pandemic but they are satisfied with the work they were able to put in.

“They’ve been off the court for the past six weeks because of the community quarantine, so we had to be patient until they got their legs underneath them. But so far, we like what we see and we’ll take what we can get,” the national 3×3 coach was quoted as saying by the official PBA website prior to their departure for Austria. “With their commitment and sacrifice, I can say that the players are really all-in.”

Gilas Pilipinas 3×3, which is looking to secure one of the three Olympic spots up for grabs in the OQT, took its preparation to higher gear in the homestretch, training hard in scrimmages against practice players Tonino Gonzaga, Greg Flor, Malik Diouf and Jason Brickman.

Also helping the team prepare were coaches Mo Gingerich and Benj Palarca.

In the OQT, the nationals play in the tough Pool C, which also has Slovenia (Europe Cup 2016 winner), France (second at Europe Cup 2019), Qatar (2014 World Champ), and the Dominican Republic.

Tournament format calls for each team playing the other four in their respective pools. The top two teams from each pool qualify for the crossover quarterfinals and then play knockout games all the way to the semifinals.

The semifinals and the third-place games will be known in the FIBA 3×3 OQT as the Olympic Ticket games.

Gilas Pilipinas 3×3 will first play Qatar on May 26 at 8 p.m. (Manila time) to be followed by the game against Slovenia at 9:45 p.m.

It will take a break the following day before resuming its campaign on May 28 against the Dominican Republic at 6 p.m. and France at 8 p.m.

Three-on-three basketball will be making its Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Gilas Pilipinas 3×3’s FIBA OQT matches can be seen live over the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ Facebook page.