Gilas Pilipinas 3×3 braces for OQT action

Gilas Pilipinas 3×3 head coach Stefan Stojacic is tempering expectations when the newly-assembled national team plunge into action in the first-ever International Basketball Federation (FIBA) 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) on March 18 to 22 in Bangalore, India.

Stojacic, who was part of the Serbian national squad that won the FIBA 3×3 World Cup in the Philippines in 2018, said that the quartet of Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa stands a chance in the 20-team qualifying tourney for the Olympic debut of 3×3 basketball.

“I will give some chances for sure though I don’t want to say big chances,” said the 31-year-old mentor, who plays for the world’s top club Liman and is individually ranked No. 57 in the world (No. 17 in Serbia).

The Philippines, ranked No. 18 in the world and seeded 14th in the OQT, will face No. 4 Slovenia (fourth), No. 9 France (sixth), No. 24 Qatar (11th) and No. 31 Dominican Republic (18th) in Pool C, with only the top two finishers advancing to the quarterfinals.

“I think everybody in the group can beat anybody. We will play and try to give our best,” said Stojacic.

“Luck will also be helpful. 3×3 is a short game — 10 minutes or until 21 points — and in some games, who starts to shoot better can win the game. I will give chances for the Philippines to pass the group stage,” added the FIBA 3×3 World Tour MVP.

Should Gilas 3×3 make it past the group, it will be bracketed with the winners from Pool A which features No. 8 Mongolia (top seed), No. 13 Poland (eighth), No. 14 Brazil (ninth), No. 28 Turkey (16th) and No. 19 Czech Republic (17th) in the last eight.

Powerhouse USA, Netherlands, Latvia and Lithuania will also see action in the Olympic qualifiers.

The top three teams in the OQT will join host Japan and top-ranked teams China, Serbia and Russia, which qualified via ranking points, in the Summer Games.

The winner of the Universality OQT, which will pit the six highest-ranked countries that have not been represented in the last two Olympic basketball tournaments and have not yet qualified, will take the final berth to complete the eight-team competition.

Stojacic said huge task lies ahead of 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalists Perez and Tautuaa.

“CJ and Mo are new players in 3×3. They played in the SEA Games but that tournament is totally different from the international level of playing 3×3. They have the quality, very good players. Now, we have to change their mindset to 3×3,” said the Serbian tactician, following the team’s first practice on Wednesday.

Stojacic sees Philippines’ No. 1 Munzon and No. 2 Pasaol taking charge of the squad.

“All of them are great but Alvin and Josh are going to be the biggest influence,” he said.

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