TIME is of the essence as the Gilas Pilipinas men's 3x3 team begins its preparations next week for the Tokyo Olympics qualifier.
The year's top rookie pick Joshua Munzon of Terrafirma and the San Miguel duo of CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa spearhead the squad that will enter the Inspire Sports Academy bubble in Calamba, Laguna for a three-week camp.
Also joining them are Meralco rookie Alvin Pasaol, fellow freshman Santi Santillan of Rain or Shine, and Karl Dehesa.
The team will be training for about three weeks before leaving for Graz, Austria for the May 26 to 30 event.
The Filipinos kick off their campaign on opening day by taking on Qatar and Slovenia. After a one-day rest, they resume their bid on the 28th against Dominican Republic and France.
"We believe the Philippines will have a competitive team in Austria," said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Al S. Panlilio.
"It's a big challenge to upset teams ranked in the Top 10 of 3x3 in Slovenia and France, but we have a good combination of skill, speed, size, and strength to give them a run for their money. We may be ranked ahead of Qatar and the Dominican Republic, but we can't count them out either," Panlilio added. "It's good to get this chance to prepare so our players can get back into game shape and develop chemistry."
The SBP is grateful to the PBA Board of Governors, Commissioner Willie Marcial, and all mother teams of the five players for extending their support to the national team's campaign.
"All the players and coaches, led by SBP 3x3 Program Director Ronnie Magsanoc, have started the protocol necessary to enter the training bubble, and they will start their practices next week," said Panlilio.
The qualification features 20 countries divided into four groups, with the Philippines bracketed in Pool C.
Top three teams will clinch spots in the Olympics. (RG)