By Kyle Encarnacion
MANILA — Manila Chooks TM tries to pull one again against Liman as the 3X3 Pinoy pride takes the floor for its opener at the Al Gharafa Sports Complex this weekend in Doha, Qatar.
Manila Chooks is in the same group with Liman, now seeded no. 1 in the world, and home team Lusail in Pool A of the 2020 FIBA 3X3 Doha World Tour Masters.
Composed of Joshua Munzon, Taylor Statham, Nikola Pavlovic, and Angelo Tsagarakis with Troy Rike as reserve, Manila Chooks (then Pasig Chooks) stunned Liman in the pool stages with a 19-16 win last year.
But in the same tournament, the Balanga Chooks, a team then composed of now-Manila players Alvin Pasaol and Santi Santillan along with Karl Dehesa and Travis Franklin, bowed to Liman in the quarterfinals, 9-21.
Pasig and Balanga finished fifth and sixth respectively, last year.
But this time however, PH’s top 3×3 player Munzon and no. 5 Rike are ready for the rematch.
“It’s definitely going to be a test for us to square against those European teams but you know I think we’re ready mentally, physically,” said Munzon.
The stakes are high in this level 10 tournament with USD 40,000 going to the champion.
“I think we’re ready as we can be and we’ll see how things go. I am confident with my team. We’re ready to get after it,” added Munzon.
“We have played more recently than probably most of the other teams here. We’re kinda still in game mode and team mode heading right into that,” enthused Rike as his squad competed in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup just two weeks ago.
Liman, whom Manila faces at 11:55 p.m. on Saturday (Philippine time), is composed of 2017 FIBA 3X3 World Tour MVP Stefan Stojacic, world no. 3 Stefan Kojic, no. 4 Mihailo Vasic, and no. 6 Aleksandar Ratkov.
On the other hand, Lusail, whom Manila plays on Sunday at 1:35 a.m., has 36-year-old Greek Vasileiadis Kostantinos; 23-year-old Ousseynou Mbow of Senegal; and homegrown talents 32-year-old Qatari Mame Ndour and 18-year-old Hamza Radi.
The top two teams in Pool A will crossover with the top two of Pool C which is composed of world no. 4 NY Harlem, no. 14 Lausanne of Switzerland, and Lithuania’s Utena in the knockout quarterfinals on Sunday.
On Thursday Manila Chooks TM will hold its first on-court practice at the competition venue from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. before heading back to the Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel for a 30-minute weights training at 10 p.m. (AI/MTVN)