A day after the announcement of Gilas Pilipinas 3×3 lineup for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, the quartet of Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol, CJ Perez, and Mo Tautuaa got down to work on the hardcourt of Ronac in Mandaluyong City.
Though relieved to finally have everyone there, national team head coach Stefan Stojacic saw firsthand that there is still plenty of work to do from now until the last week of March, to get this team going.
“This is the first practice that we have all the players that are part of the OQT. I am happy about that because it is still one month before the tournament. I think we still have enough time to cover everything,” said Stojacic, the 2018 FIBA 3X3 World Tour Most Valuable Player and coach of China as well.
Stojacic shared that the level of play in the Southeast Asian Games — a tournament that saw CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa win gold — a far cry from what they will face in Bengaluru, India from March 18 to 22.
“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. But they have quality, very good players. Now, we have to change their mindset to 3×3,” Stojacic said.
“There is a lot of work to be done because of their lack of experience in playing 3×3 and how the game is different than 5-on-5. We have a month more to prepare them for the 3×3 game.
“They are for sure going to be a competitive team, but the OQT is going to be really hard. A lot of work in front of us,” he added.
And it showed during Gilas 3×3’s three tune-ups.
The nationals bowed to the all-star team of Vrbas’ Marko Brankovic (world no. 50), Ralja’s Nebojsa Kilijan (75), Belgrade’s Vladimir Trajkovic (116), and ex-Basilan import Marcus Hammonds (US no. 16), 13-16, to open the day.
Though eking out a 16-14 win over local top 10 players Troy Rike, Karl Dehesa, Franky Johnson, and Chris De Chavez, Gilas 3×3 suffered a 9-11 loss to the visitors to cap the day.
And so, Munzon (PH no. 1) and Pasaol (no.2) will have huge responsibilities on their shoulders, according to Stojacic.
“Alvin is going to be the glue guy here. He is going to connect all of them together. Also Josh. Josh is going to be the biggest influence,” opined Stojacic.
“All of them are great but Alvin and Josh are going to be the biggest influence. That is my opinion after just the first practice.”
Stojacic feels determined to change the view of Perez and Tautuaa regarding 3×3 basketball. More importantly — and despite the short amount of time left — he plans on building the chemistry between all four of his players in the days to come.
“I’m here to put them together to play 3×3 on an international level and how they will be competitive for the OQT.”