CEBU City — The best foreign and local 3×3 talents clash as the 2023 Chooks-to-Go FIBA 3×3 World Tour Cebu Masters kicks off at the picturesque SM Seaside City here Saturday.
Manila Chooks! will be bannered by Mac Tallo, the country’s No. 1 3×3 player, Marcus Hammonds, Marquez Letcher-Ellis, and Cebu-based Tosh Sesay.
Handled by Chico Lanete, the No. 11 seed Manila Chooks is expected to put up a good fight despite the absence of local standouts Paul Desiderio and Dennis Santos.
“Kailangan talaga namin mag-adjust sa team after the sudden injuries nila Paul and Dennis. Pinilit talaga nila maglaro pero hindi talaga gumaling in time ang tuhod ni Paul and medical condition ni Dennis,” Tallo was quoted as saying.
“Thankful din ako na nag-step up si Quez, Tosh and Marcus kasi matagal ko na sila nakakalaro and aligned kami sa gustong ma-achieve ng team dito sa Cebu Masters. We will play hard,” added Tallo.
The tough 14-team field includes top seed Ub Huishan of Serbia, The Netherlands’ Amsterdam HiPRO, and Vienna of Austria.
The United States’ Miami side will be anchored by former NBA player Jimmer Fredette.
Also vying in the Cebu Masters are tough Asian teams Mongolia’s Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy and Sansar MMC Energy and Futian of China.
The champion will take home the top prize of $40,000, with the runner-up settling for $30,000.
Meanwhile, the organizing committee released the names of the top five players who are expected to wow basketball fans in this Queen City of the South.
The five are Strahinja Stojacic (Ub Huishan NE), Jimmer Fredette (Miami), Worthy de Jong (Amsterdam HiPRO),Thibaut Vervoort (Futian) and Steve Sir (Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy)
Stojacic is no stranger to playing in Masters held in the Philippines. The world’s No. 1 3×3 player is once again expected to dazzle locals when he performs in front of the Cebuano audience for the first time.
Stojacic is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished 3×3 players of his time, and he will look to lead his Ub Huishan NE side to a seventh Masters crown this season.
Fredette is easily one of the most recognizable figures in the sport today.
The former NBA pro has embraced 3×3 basketball and has become one of its key players not just for the United States but also in the pro circuit scene.
It’s hard to miss de Jong with his signature long wavy hair, but the top-ranked player in the Netherlands isn’t just about looks.
Currently No. 4 in the world, the 35-year-old veteran led his team to a second-place finish in the Marseilles Masters.
Vervoort, the No. 19-ranked player in the world and No. 4-ranked Belgian national, is out to win more in the Philippines after placing second in Manila last May.
He always adds a different dimension to his Futian team, and no less than Manila Chooks! will have to brace for him when they face each other in the pool phase.
Sir, Mongolia’s favorite elder statesman is back for one more go in Cebu. In the last few years, Sir has been instrumental in turning the country into one of the world’s formidable forces in the 3×3 scene.
Last year in the same Masters, Sir and company barged into the semifinals but fell just short of making the podium.
Now 41, the sharpshooter does not intend to stop anytime soon, and is eager to lead Mongolia’s top team to a higher finish this time around.