Karl Dehesa and Leonard Santillan both feel honored with their inclusion in the Gilas Pilipinas 3×3 pool bound for the highly-anticipated FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament on May 26-30 in Graz, Austria.
The two were named part of the crew since they are among the Philippines’ top 10 3×3 players. They join the nation’s top two in Joshua Munzon and Alvin Pasaol, and SEA Games gold medalists Mo Tautuaa and CJ Perez.
“Just being in the same breath with great players in the country, I think that’s just a great honor in itself,” said the sixth-ranked Dehesa in Radyo5’s Power and Play with former PBA commissioner Noli Eala, Saturday.
“Unang-una po, isang karangalan na ma-represent ang Pilipinas. Lalo na’t makasama ko ‘tong dalawang ‘to (Munzon, Pasaol), top two players sa bansa,” said no. 8 Santillan, on the other hand.
“Sobrang excited na makalaro.”
The six players entered Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna on Saturday. There, they’ll begin their preparations for the showpiece, where a total of three tickets to the Tokyo Olympics are up for grabs.
Getting one of those, however, won’t be that easy. Gilas 3×3 is in for a tough battle ahead in Pool C, as its group includes world no. 3 Slovenia, France, 2014 FIBA 3×3 world champions Qatar, and the Dominican Republic.
Both Santillan and Dehesa will bring plenty of experience for the team since the two were teammates with Pasaol in Balanga Chooks.
Balanga competed in two FIBA 3×3 World Tour Masters, as well as multiple Challengers around the world.
That is why the Filipino dribblers are very aware of how tough the competition is.
Gilas is pressed for time, though. It will only be in the Calambubble for eight days before the team heads to Graz.
“I think that us coming together in this bubble is gonna be really, really beneficial. So we’ll be able to actually apply what we’ve learned in our film sessions and do that in practice,” said the 33-year-old free agent.
Dehesa — who was part of the Manila North team that finished second in the 2015 FIBA 3×3 World Tour Manila Masters — also expressed excitement with the addition of PBA stars Tautuaa and Perez.
“We’re not a small team. We have length, we have guys just adding to the mix is going to make it more deadly.”
Now, the two hope for Gilas 3×3 to reach success. And both Dehesa and Santillan vowed to do whatever they can to help the team.
“I’m just coming in to compete, and push the guys to get ready for the tournament. That’s the best I can do,” said Dehesa.
“Kung anuman ‘yung madagdag, ‘yung aggressiveness sa depensa — kasi iba na yung level pagdating sa Olympics… Kaya ganun ‘yung mga gagawin ko para makatulong sa team,” Santillan added.