WITH three practice players in tow, the national 3×3 basketball team returned to the INSPIRE Sports Academy yesterday as it enters the final stretch of its preparation for the FIBA 3×3 Olympic qualifiers on May 26-30.
Senegalese Malick Diouf, Tonino Gonzaga, and Agosto Flor were invited to pit against the country’s best 3×3 players – Joshua Munzon, Karl Dehesa and Santi Santillan, as well as 30th Southeast Asian Games gold medalists CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa.
More good news for national 3×3 coach Ronnie Magsanoc as Alvin Pasaol has rejoined the team after missing the first half of the Calamba training camp due to health and safety protocols.
Diouf, Gonzaga, and Diouf, along with Dehesa and Santillan, will look to simulate the plays of the Philippines’ opponents in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Graz, Austria.
The Philippines is in Pool C together with Slovenia, France, Qatar and the Dominican Republic.
“We also want to give our national players the chance to scrimmage with different combinations,” said Magsanoc.
Helping out the national 3×3 team is nothing new for Gonzaga and Flor, who also took part in preparing the squad for its successful SEA Games campaign in 2019.
Gonzaga, a 6-foot-1 forward from Ateneo, has vast 3×3 experience playing for Nueva Ecija in the pro league. Flor, on the other hand, is a lanky 6-foot-2 guard who has been a loyal soldier for Magsanoc.
The 6-foot-10 Diouf, on the other hand, is now with University of the Philippines.
Magsanoc is grateful for the three practice players for making a sacrifice to help out the national team.
“We cannot thank them enough for their valuable contribution to flag and country,” said Magsanoc.