Gilas 3x3 head Magsanoc defends tapping high schoolers for Asia Cup



MANILA, Philippines – Many saw the emotional wins Gilas Pilipinas pulled off in the recently concluded 2019 FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup. 

FEU high school star RJ Abarrientos stepped up for the injured Ricci Rivero and almost singlehandedly carried the Philippine delegation to two straight wins before bowing out of the qualifying draw. 

As brilliant as these performances were, however, they were all for naught, as the country’s 3x3 men’s division slid 3 spots in the most recent FIBA 3x3 federation rankings. 

That’s because Abarrientos, Rivero, newcomer Barkley Ebona and San Beda high school’s Rhayyan Amsali all ranked below the Top 100 of the country’s men’s open individual rankings. Per FIBA rules, only points garnered by those in the country’s Top 100 will be credited for the federation. 

As such, Gilas essentially did not gain a single point for their efforts in the Asia Cup, a Level 9 event in FIBA’s hierarchy.

Sitting at No. 33 as of May 30, the Philippines has until November 1 this year to gain more points and crack the Top 24 for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic qualifiers. 

There, only the Top 10 players may represent the country for a shot at the ever-elusive Olympic gold medal.

National 3x3 program head Ronnie Magsanoc, though, defended his choice of players for the tournament in a phone interview, saying that it’s meant to serve a purpose in the long run.

Yes, we may not be getting the federation points for this event, but it is an investment para kung sakali man na hindi pro players yung maipadala sa SEA Games, umangat din yung ranking nila individually kasi wala sila masyadong nilalaruan,” said Magsanoc.

(Yes, we may not be getting the federation points for this event, but it is an investment that in the event that pro players will not be sent for the SEA Games, their individual rankings will rise because they don’t play in events that much.) 

“That’s what’s included in the plan, because if not, they will never be considered anymore when in fact they were already national players even before I was on board,” he continued.

He also said that he had to confirm his choices’ names to FIBA early on to ensure their participation. 

Pag nag-confirm ako na wala akong pangalan – kasi sinabi ko rin yung mga pangalan sa heads – para mo na ring sinabi na pupunta tayo doon pero wala akong sundalo,” he said. “Di ko pwedeng gawin yun." 

(If I confirmed without names, it’s like saying I’m going there without soldiers, and I can’t do that.) 

“That’s the reason why these 3 (Rivero, Amsali, Abarrientos) were initial shoo-ins the moment there was the go signal to confirm the participation,” he continued.

However, a source within the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed that Magsanoc submitted the names last April 25, almost two weeks after Chooks-to-Go 3x3 league owner Ronald Mascariñas offered his entire league roster to the SBP.

The pioneering 3x3 league currently houses 19 of the country’s Top 20 players such as Joshua Munzon (No. 1), Alvin Pasaol (No. 2) and Santi Santillan (No. 3).

But Magsanoc had already promised his young trio that they’d suit up for the Asia Cup, as well as asked permission from their respective coaches and athletic directors. 

Noong umaakyat tayo [sa rankings], yung timeline ng paghanap ng players at pagkausap, nagawa ko na,” he said. “Nakausap ko na sila and I also gave my word last year to these young players kasi ang next step after U23 is already Men’s Open.” 

(When we were rising in the rankings, I’ve already followed the timeline of looking and talking to players. I’ve already talked to them and I also gave my word last year to these young players because the next step after U23 is already Men’s Open.) 

Magsanoc also put his faith in his young core, saying that their talents are enough to take down the world’s best.

“Yes they may be young, but these are already players who have established themselves in the global stage and I saw it firsthand, and I believe that the experience we give them will go a long way,” he said.

“Sometimes, we take one step backward, and hopefully, we’ll get two steps forward. All within the vision of strengthening the national team.” –