Mentally toughened Gilas 3X3 squad cramming physically for Austria Qualifying
Months of isolation and inactivity are going to get in the way of Gilas Pilipinas’ preparations for the 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament later this month, but its players have unwavering faith that they could hurdle these challenges just in time for the all-important stint in Austria.
“It’s really going to be tough, considering how everything came to a full stop after playing 3×3 for two years,” Alvin Pasaol said in Filipino in the latest episode of radio-web show Power & Play.
“But through the help of the (national federation’s) Al Panlilio and Butch Antonio, we’re able to devise a workaround in our training, we’re able to do Zoom session for this dream to get to the Tokyo Olympics,” he added.
Joshua Munzon, the Philippines’ top-ranked 3×3 player, feels the brief time the team trained together just before the lockdowns should serve as a good foundation for the team’s cohesion.
“We got a chance to practice last year before the pandemic really started. We got a chance to get to know each other and this is a selfless group of guys,” he said.
“We got a group of guys that’s willing to do whatever it takes to win, so I think, more than anything, this is a good opportunity to get us on the court together to really just perfect that chemistry and build on that,” added Munzon.
The Nationals reportedly entered Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna province, on Saturday for a weeklong training camp for the meet that will be held in the city of Graz beginning May 26.
Joining Munzon and Pasaol in the squad coached by Ronnie Magsanoc are PBA veterans and 3×3 Southeast Asian Games gold winners Mo Tautuaa and CJ Perez. They will be backstopped by Leonard Santillan and Karl Dehesa, who were named as reserves.
“We could already tell from our Zoom meetings that we’re going to gel and mesh well together. Now it’s just getting that onto the court, and adapting,” said Tautuaa.
The Philippines will see action in Pool C, where it will face much taller squads in Fiba 2016 Euro Cup champion Slovenia, 2019 Euro Cup 2nd placer France, 2014 World Champion Qatar, and the Dominican Republic.
But this is where Munzon and Pasaol’s combined overseas competition will come in handy.
“We got a chance to see Slovenia in the pro circuit. We played against a number of Qataris (clubs), so we got some experience against some of those guys,” Munzon said.
“We’ve been able to watch some film during our Zoom sessions, also,” he went on. “I think coach Ronnie did a good job sending film to us. So we’ve been studying teams for the past month or so. We’ve been at it.”
“We’re not going to be not knowledgeable about these teams,” Munzon noted.
“We can make it as long as we play with heart,” said Pasaol. “Also, we just have to have faith in each other and in the idea that we are capable of winning.”
Not lost on these cagers is the fact that they are on the cusp of rewriting history. The Philippines last participated in the Olympic basketball event in 1972, when the Summer Games were held in Munich, Germany.
“I think all of us is raring at the chance to get out there and make that a reality. It’s been a dream for all of us to make it to the Olympics,” said Munzon.