After Day 1 of the FIBA 3×3 Asia, the Gilas Pilipinas Women’s team, barring any disaster in today’s games, has qualified for the main tournament which is set to begin on Friday after posting impressive wins over Samoa and Chinese-Taipei. Our team in the Men’s Division, however, dropped both their games yesterday versus Thailand and Qatar.
The big question that the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP) should be answering is why they fielded for the men’s divison a team made up of collegiate players.This is practically the same team SBP fielded in the FIBA 3×3 Under-23 World Cup held last year in China. The only addition is Barkley Ebona who replaced Jeepy Faundo. In that tournament, the team placed 9th against players who were in their age range.
The FIBA 3×3 Asia is a senior competition where almost every team fielded in players with professional experience. SBP sent young boys to go up against full-grown men. This is not to throw shade at Ricci Rivero, RJ Abbarientos, Rhyann Amsali, and Ebona. If anything, they should be commended for not backing down and giving their all despite being undermanned after Rivero went down with a sprained ankle in their first game. Their indomitable spirit was in full display on the 2nd day of competition when they upset heavy favorites Iran which looked invincible on Day 1. Our boys deserve our respect. But what they do not deserve is to be thrown into the lion’s den against competition who had the advantage in experience, height, and heft. It was asking too much from the 18-year-old Amsali who is still part of Batang Gilas to bang bodies with the Qataris who are led by 33-year-old Fadi Abilmona. Thailand’s average age is 25 while our oldest player is Ebona who is only 22.
It would have been more acceptable if we have no other players available to represent the country. But we already have our own local 3×3 league initiated by Chooks-To-Go which ran until March this year. In fact, the 2nd Conference, the Patriot’s Cup, will already commence this June. This means there are teams which could have used the FIBA 3×3 Asia as part of their preparation for the Chooks-to-Go competition. The champions of the first conference, the Pasig Grindhouse Kings, is fresh from a stint in the FIBA 3×3 Huaqiao International Kunshan Challenger which ended last Sunday. They could have been tasked to represent the country in this weeks’s FIBA 3×3 Asia.
The Philippine is in a mad rush to earn ranking points to have a chance of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics next year. We are currently 30th in the FIBA rankings. We need to enter the top 24 in the world rankings by October 31. On November 1, FIBA will announce the top four teams who will automatically qualify for the Olympics. The next four slots will be decided in the Olympic qualifier on March next year which will be participated in by the remaining teams in the top 24 of the FIBA rankings. We missed out on a chance to earn precious points in the FIBA 3×3 Asia.
It is foolish for the SBP to argue that this is all part of a long-term plan to develop players for 3×3 competitions. That could be done by continuing to field our young players in international youth competitions. Fielding them in the senior’s division puts our players at risk of getting hurt and suffering injuries against physically more mature competition. We all have seen how rough 3×3 international basketball is. Again, the bottomline is that we have teams and players available and there is urgency in garnering ranking points. Whether they admit it or not, the SBP dropped the ball here and what they did was grossly irresponsible. and unfair to the four young men who carried our country’s flag.