May 01, 2021

Grind begins for OQT-bound Gilas 3x3 team

THE Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 team faces a gargantuan task in its bid to clinch a berth in the Tokyo Olympics.

But as the saying goes, nothing is impossible.

The six-man Filipino squad kicks off its preparations for the Olympiad Saturday when it arrived in Calamba, Laguna to undergo extensive training at the Inspire Sports Academy bubble for the qualifier of the Tokyo Games.

After getting the results of their RT-PCR tests, San Miguel's CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa, and rookies Joshua Munzon of Terrafirma and Meralco's Alvin Pasaol already went to Laguna for the week-long training camp together with alternates Santi Santillan of Rain or Shine and Karl Dehesa.

Calling the shots for the team is Ronnie Magsanoc.

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The team will be trying to end a 49-year basketball Olympic drought for the country, which last saw action in the Summer Games in the 1972 Munich Olympiad behind a team led by William 'Bogs' Adornado, coached by Ignacio 'Ning' Ramos, and managed by Domingo Itchon, who was president of the PBA from 1976 to 1982. It finished its campaign at 13th place.

Although the trip to Graz, Austria for the May 26 to 30 qualifier is no mean feat, the team is up to the challenge of representing the country's tricolors.

"I'm excited about the opportunity. I know everybody is excited to represent the Philippines. So hopefully we make it to the Olympics," said Munzon as he guested in the Power & Play program of former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala on Saturday along with teammates Pasaol, Santillan, Tautuaa, and Dehesa.

"I think all of us are raring at the chance to get out there and make it a reality. It's a dream for all of us to make it to the Olympics and I think this is a big opportunity for us and the country. It's a special moment for us to be able to represent the Philippines," added the Fil-Am forward, who is the country's top 3x3 player and no. 1 overall pick in the last PBA draft.

The Philippine side will be in for a tough competition in Graz, Austria as it is bracketed in Pool C together with Slovenia, Qatar, Dominican Republic, and Qatar.

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It needs to win at least two games in order to advance in the knockout stage of the four group competition.

Only three teams out of the 20 participating countries will earn a berth in the Tokyo Games. (RG)