Philippines have need for speed at FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament

22 Apr 2021

MANILA (Philippines) - Maybe they are undersized. And, sure, better preparation to build chemistry would have been useful.

But never underestimate hoops-mad Philippines, who always have a bucket load of energy and excitement on-and- off the court.

And they might just have a secret weapon that could shock the world at the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) on May 26-30 in Austria.

If the Philippines qualify for the Tokyo Games in 3x3, it surely would rank as one of the Southeast Asian country's finest sports achievements. So, of course, the pressure is on Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, CJ Perez and Moala Tautuaa who have the country's dreams in their hands.

To secure one of the three prized tickets for Tokyo up for grabs in Graz, the Philippines have to firstly emerge from a tough Pool C which also features Slovenia (Europe Cup 2016 winners), France (2nd at Europe Cup 2019), Qatar (2014 World Champs) and the Dominican Republic.

The task has been made more difficult with the team being unable to train because of a Covid-19 lockdown in the Philippines.

"The last time we played 3x3 is before lockdown and that was last year, so it's been a while," Perez said. "We are not able to play, that's the hard thing for us."

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Instead of being discouraged, the team has remained positive and upbeat.

"We are doing our best to be in shape. Our coaches never stopped working for the program for us and they keep pushing every day," Perez said.

They do have numerous obstacles ahead - a lack of size is something that obviously can't be changed - but Perez said quickness might be an ace for these speedy Philippines.

"Our weakness is we're smaller than the other teams," he said. "The advantage for us is we're quicker. A fast-paced game is one area we can perhaps exploit opponents."

The Philippines might be seen as an underdog but the team boast formidable firepower led by Munzon, who is a rising superstar as he memorably showed late last year at the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup and Doha Masters in a better one-two punch than Manny Pacquiao in the ring.

Rounding out the team is sharpshooter Pasaol, who is well known on the World Tour and is the country's No.2 3x3 player while Perez and Tautuaa are more sporadic participants but were part of the Philippines' 3x3 gold winning team at the Southeast Asian Games 2019.

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"Munzon and Pasaol - they know how to play 3x3," Perez said. "I'm the one who will listen to what they teach me. I think they're going to be big factors for us to win games."

The 27-year-old, who is a basketball star in the Philippine Basketball Association, started playing 3x3 in 2016 and believed it was the tougher form of hoops.

"The difference is 3x3 is harder because we need to play 10 minutes of game time fast," Perez said.

If the Philippines realize their Olympics dream in Austria, Perez will be fulfilled knowing the team would have brought so much cheer to their compatriots.

"It means a lot for my career if we make it to the Olympics, that's a huge success for me," he said.

"It's always an honor to represent my country."