CALAMBA, Laguna - The Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 Men squad is currently working double time in Calamba, Laguna in preparation for the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Led by coach Ronnie Magsanoc, the team is composed of top-ranked Filipino 3x3 player Joshua Munzon with his fellow overall number 1 overall picks in the PBA Rookie Draft in CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa. Alvin Pasaol, the fourth member of the team, is still completing health and safety protocols before entering the training bubble.
To help the team in their preparations, they've enlisted 3x3 veterans Karl Dehesa and Leonard Santillan.
"We're very grateful that the team is able to organize and for this chance to work together because it's something that we have been waiting and praying for. Now it's all about trying to find ways to be able to make up for lost time," said Magsanoc.
"The six players were able to practice with each other in 2020 but this is the first time in 2021 so cohesion is going to be a concern but hopefully with the way they got to know each other last year and with our Zoom workouts in the past few weeks, we'll be able to make it work."
The competitions will be held from May 26 to 30 with 20 teams fighting for three Olympic slots in the men's division. Gilas is part of Pool C alongside Slovenia, France, Dominican Republic, and Qatar.
"The chemistry is something that we're trying to fast-track but these are all professional players. More than that, just their mere presence in the bubble is a testament to their willingness to sacrifice. With that alone, we have to be thankful to everyone who's here," added Magsanoc.
The top two squads from each of the pools will qualify for the quarterfinals with only the top three finishers getting a ticket to Tokyo where 3x3, for the first time in history, will be a part of the Olympic Games.
"I'm happy to be a part of this. There has been a bunch of delays but now we have a chance to represent the country and hopefully qualify for the Olympics," said Munzon, who is ranked 136th in the world.
"It was a great feeling just being on the court and being with a team. Right now just getting the chance to play basketball without worrying about getting the virus is already a big blessing."
Munzon added that there will be adjustments for Tautuaa and Perez who have not played as much 3x3 basketball as the rest of the team but he's confident they'd be able to pick it up quickly.
"It always takes some time to figure out 3x3 but Mo and CJ are professionals. They came in here ready to work. We're all selfless and we're ready to accomplish one goal. We've only been here for a few days but I fell we've already come a long way."