Gilas 3x3 men's, women's teams head to China for FIBA Asia Cup

Gilas Pilipinas is gearing up to represent the country in the upcoming 2019 FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup 2019 to be held in Changsha, China. The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas will be represented in both the men's and women's division headed by coaches Ronnie Magsanoc and Patrick Aquino, respectively.

The men's team will be bannered by three members of the squad that competed in the 2018 FIBA 3x3 U-23 World Cup. The veteran of the group is Ricci Rivero of the University of the Philippines and he'll be joined by RJ Abarrientos and Rhayyan Amsali. The squad that competed in Xi'An, China included Jeepy Faundo but since the lanky player is already with the Columbian Dyip in the PBA, they replaced him with Barkley Ebona who will be making his debut on the international stage.

Abarrientos was the top scorer for the Philippines in the 2018 FIBA 3x3 U-23 World Cup as he finished in the competition's top 20 while Rivero just fell out of it at the 22nd spot.

The Gilas men's 3x3 team is one of 13 squads that will be competing for three spots that are left open in the Pool Stage. They are grouped with Qatar, Iran, Samoa, and Thailand.

The top team after a single round robin will be joining Pool B that already has China and New Zealand. After another round robin, the top two teams qualify for the knockout quarterfinals.

Chemistry will be the biggest advantage of the Gilas men's 3x3 team as three of them have already experienced playing alongside each other in an international tournament before. However, they will be going up against veteran squads as many of their opponents are already in their physical primes.

The Gilas women's 3x3 team is composed of three veterans from the 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup, which was hosted by the Philippines.

Jack Danielle Animam, Afril Bernardino, and three-point shootout queen Janine Pontejos all make their comeback while Clare Castro, who stands at 6-foot-4, will be making her debut.

"We have been preparing since last month for 3x3 but it was hard since we're also preparing for the 5x5 team," said Aquino. "However, with the help of their other teammates, our 3x3 team has also improved. It's a totally different game because 3x3 is much faster, the physically and mental toughness comes in."

For Aquino, the experience of the three Filipina ballers competing against the world's best last year would surely be a factor in their upcoming competitions.

"The experience was very important because that's so much better than just playing around here locally," Aquino added. "The maturity of our players also improved after being exposed in the international game. They learned so much from that tournament."

The women's coach is also hoping that their campaign could inspire more support from the Filipino fans for both 3x3 and women's basketball.

"3x3 is the next big thing in basketball," he said. "I think women should also be involved in it and must get the exposure they need by competing, especially on the international stage. I think the girls make an impact in terms of moving closer to that goal."

The Philippines is one of eight teams vying for the final two open spots in the Pool Stage of the women's competition and they will also need to thread the needle to move forward in Changsha. They'll need to hurdle the group composed of Chinese Taipei, Vanuatu, and Samoa before joining the Pool C that already has Japan and Sri Lanka.

The two Gilas teams will be flying out early Tuesday morning for Changsha.

"We are making a strong push to make our Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 men's and women's teams compete at a high level and garner as many points as possible for the federation," said SBP President Al Panlilio.

"The SBP is very pleased with the success of the Gilas Pilipinas Men's program as well as our Gilas Pilipinas Youth and our goal is to make all our Gilas Pilipinas programs including our 3x3 program and our women's program perform and become relevant not only in our region but also in the world stage."