MANILA — Kobe Paras and Co. face rough sailing when the Philippines plunge into action on Thursday in the 2015 FIBA U18 3×3 World Championship in Debrecen, Hungary, located 231 kilometers east of the Budapest capital.
The quartet of Paras, Mike Nieto of Ateneo, Ricci Rivero of De La Salle-Greenhills and Richard Escoto of Far Eastern left for Hungary Monday with LSGH coach John Flores and Kobe’s father, Benjie, the PBA’s only MVP and Rookie of the Year winner in 1989.
Grouped in Pool A with host Hungary, Kazakhstan, Russia, Poland and Uruguay, the Philippines was seeded by FIBA to the world championship in recognition of the strides the country has made in the novel competition.
In Pool B are Andorra, Egypt, Germany, Guatemala, Lithuania and Romania. Pool C has Brazil, Estonia, France, New Zealand, Turkey, Vietnam, and Pool D brings together Argentina, Georgia, Indonesia, Puerto Rico, Spain and the United States.
Side events include a shootout contest, women’s skills competition and a slam dunk event, where the UCLA-bound Paras ruled the contest by soaring over a motorcycle and wowing the crowd with a between-the-legs jam in Jakarta, Indonesia two years ago where the Philippines qualified to the FIBA U16 World Championship.
The Filipino Fab Four takes on the Poles for its first game, followed by Hungarians, Kazakhs, Russians and Uruguayans.
Meanwhile, leaving on Saturday to join the team is Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas legal consultant Atty. Edgar Francisco to attend the FIBA 3×3 World Congress at the Kossuth Square.
Ongoing are the qualifying matches in 16 municipalities nationwide leading up to the SBP-Talk ‘N Text U18 Tatluhan National Championship at Robinsons’ Place in Ermita on June 21.
The winner here will gain a slot in the three-team Philippine delegation competing in the Asia-Pacific World Masters in August also at Robinsons’ Place. The two other teams will come from selections made up of players from the Philippine Basketball Association.
Last year, the Manila West team comprised of Terrence Romeo, Rey Guevarra, KG Canaleta and Aldrech Ramos made it all the way to the FIBA 3×3 World Masters in Sendai, Japan after ruling the Manila leg at SM Megamall.
The country’s participation in the FIBA World Championship serves as the high point of SBP’s centerpiece grassroots development program which has annually produced top caliber talent for international competition.
As of present, SBP, headed by Smart/PLDT chairman Manny V. Pangilinan, has already sent Philippine teams to three straight 3×3 world championships – in Jakarta, Japan and now in Hungary – underscoring the success of the program which will culminate with the country’s hosting of the World Tour Finals in 2017 as bared by SBP executive director Sonny Barrios.