Short in preparations but long in heart, Gilas 3X3 squad takes Olympics shot
The Gilas Pilipinas 3×3 squad left for Austria just before midnight on Sunday, bringing with them a basketball-crazed nation’s Olympic aspirations that has spanned for nearly half-a-century.
Composed of Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa, the Filipinos will be seeing action in a qualifying tournament in the city of Graz in Austria beginning on Wednesday, hoping to send the Philippines to its first Olympic basketball event since 1972.
It’s quite a task for a team that only spent several weeks training together. But head coach Ronnie Magsanoc is steadfast in his belief that it is that very experience that will grease Gilas’ run through a tough field.“The trials and challenges that the national team has experienced as a unit may be our ticket,” Magsanoc told the Inquirer just hours before the team’s flight.
“Finding ways to make challenging situations pivot in our favor, clearing roadblocks that at times may have been impervious but has now been navigated—those were the things [we] have experienced in our journey as a national team so far,” he added.
Gilas had to settle with “practicing digitally” for a month due to quarantine restrictions. This, while teams in Europe have been neck-deep in competitions since March.
Pool C inclusion
“They have been competing with each other and are [just] two hours away from Graz via car,” he pointed out. “We were able to start working [just] last May 1.”Still, Magsanoc expressed his utmost appreciation to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), the national federation, along with the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), who lent Perez and Tautuaa to the cause.
“We’re grateful that we were blessed with SBP’s full support and the PBA’s greenlight to come together for two bubble training opportunities that helped the team prepare for the tournament,” Magsanoc said.
The Philippines, bunched in Pool C, takes on Qatar and No. 4 Slovenia on May 26. Gilas then plays Dominican Republic and No. 10 France on May 28.
The top two teams from each pool will advance to the quarterfinals. The three podium finishers gain passage to the Olympic Games in Japan this July.
Backstopping the National Trio as reserves are Leonard Santillan and Karl Dehesa.
“All we have been praying for since Day 1 is a fighting chance. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent our flag and country, is our compass to stay the course,” Magsanoc said.“The destination is the Tokyo Olympics and the biggest hump is in Graz, Austria,” he added. INQ
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