Cebu City—Unranked Team Manila hopes to make an impact in the Chooks to Go Pilipinas FIBA 3×3 World Tour Cebu Masters, which reels off Saturday at the SM Seaside City in Cebu.
Unlike the world no. 26-ranked Team Cebu, Manila will have to go through two qualifying games with Ludhiana of India and Doha, Qatar to reach the main draw.
Next to Cebu hotshot Mark Jayver Tallo, Nigerian import Henry Iloka will be among the players to watch as Manila plunges into action against Ludhiana at 1 p.m. and with Doha at 2:10 p.m.
“We have been working for this. This is a big opportunity. Everybody is in good shape,” said the world no. 231-ranked Iloka, who was welcomed by teens when he and teammates joined organizers in visiting the Sisters of Mary School Boystown grounds on Friday in Minglanilla.
Iloka’s teammates, led by world no. 174 Chico Lanete, Dennis Santos, and Dave Ando, will be there are as Manila tries to get more ranking points since it started competing in the world level in October last year.
Meanwhile, Tallo, the Philippines’ no.1 player, is getting ready for their first match when Cebu meets, world no. 3 and top seed Antwerp of Belgium at 3 p.m. and Ohama 3BALL (USA) at 7 p.m.
Tallo knows how dangerous Antwerp’s Olympic veteran and world no. 6 Thibaut Vervoort can be, and his experience with Belgium when they placed fourth in the Tokyo Olympics.
“Pareho kaming point guard. Pareho kami ng laro. Bumabanat ng two-points ‘yun. ‘Yun lang, sana makuha namin ang schemes nila (Antwerp),” said Tallo after soaking in the welcome given him by Cebuano fans inside the Sisters of Mary campus.
Antwerp is looking for back-to-back title wins since winning the Dubai Expo 3×3 Super Quest last March, and Vervoort will be backed up by world no. 9 Nick Celis, Bryan de Valck, Rafael Bogaerts, and Caspar Augustinjnen.
As for Team USA, the Americans are expected to make a good showing as well, after winning the Quebec Challenger, reaching the semis at the Montreal Masters.
And they will have 6’1” Malik Hluchoweckyj (world no. 64) competing with Tallo for outside shots as well.
Also out to give a good performance is Karlis Lasmanis, the MVP of the Montreal Masters, and teammate Nauris Miezis, as they team up for world no. 4 Riga of Latvia.