For the first time ever, the Philippines will welcome the FIBA 3×3 World Cup.
FIBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) held a press conference on Thursday, January 18 at the Bonifacio High Street in Taguig to officially launch the yearly tournament.
"Forty countries - 20 men's and 20 women's (teams) - will be coming to the Philippines to play the games," SBP President Al Panlilio proudly said. "3×3 is basketball, but it's played rather differently compared to 5×5. It's exciting."
Present alongside Panlilio were SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios, Senators Joel Villanueva and Sonny Angara, Bounty Agroventures President Ronald Mascariñas, and SMART Sports Head Epok Quimpo. They were also joined by FIBA's 3×3 Managing Director Alex Sanchez.
"I think one of the things we viewed as important was the success of the World Tours in the two malls in the previous years," Sanchez explained on FIBA's decision to have the Philippines host the prestigious event. "We want to help this event to give push to Filipinos to see if they can develop a strong program to be in Tokyo 2020. I think that should be the final goal, and the World Cup is a step towards achieving this goal."
Last year, 3×3 basketball was added as a competitive sport in the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Although the World Cup is essentially not a qualifier for the Games, Sanchez pointed out that hosting the tournament could become a factor for the Philippines to participate in Tokyo.
"The fact that we have this event here, even if it's not a direct qualifier, it should help to create momentum in order to help implement a successful program," Sanchez said. "The momentum will help for sure."
Last year, the team of Kobe Paras, Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, and JR Quiñahan competed in Nantes, France. For the FIBA 3×3 World Cup this year, Sonny Barrios mentioned the country still doesn't have a team, although there were already several players who have expressed their intention to join.
"It's very heartwarming because without naming names, we're getting a lot of volunteers from the PBA players, especially from those who have already played 3×3 here and abroad," Barrios said, who also shared that aside from coach Eric Atltamirano, national team head coach Chot Reyes will also be involved in the selection process.
PBA stars, such as Calvin Abueva, Mac Belo, Aldrech Ramos, KG Cañaleta, and Terrence Romeo, to name a few, have represented the country in previous 3×3 tournaments.
The FIBA 3×3 World Cup this year will be held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan from June 8 to 12.
"3×3 is an Olympic sport so it's something that the maybe the Philippines can also qualify in Tokyo in 2020," Panlilio said. "It's exciting times for basketball in general for the Philippines."