HALF-COURT HYPE: Kings of the Court, Zamst PH fuel 3x3 fever


by Jonas Egan Reyes, published March 23, 2019

Known fact: most Filipinos are hooked on basketball.

Nowadays, the passion for the sport has trickled from its purest form right down to its curtailed version.

Undoubtedly, the enthusiasm of the Filipino baller for the traditional five-on-five has spilled over to its shortened yet equally exhilarating variety: the FIBA-endorsed 3x3 half-court game. Formalized in 2007 by basketball’s world governing body, the 3x3 game reached the Philippine shores in recent years with the staging of various international and local tournaments.

And that resounding interest was further amplified last March 17 at The Upper Deck as Zamst Philippines, in cooperation with Kings of the Court | STR8 Philippines, held its inaugural 3x3 tournament – an event that drew in 85 teams spread through seven divisions. Played under the auspices of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), a total of 119 games were played at the East and West courts of the posh Ortigas sporting venue for almost the entire day.

Spicing up the event with some hip-hop flair was “Mr. Pinoy Hoops” himself, Mike Swift – a FIBA ambassador for 3x3 basketball. The celebrated rapper was behind the microphone for a handful of matches, urging the crowd to get louder with every highlight-reel play dished out by the competitors.

The turnout and the level of competition left the Brooklyn-raised artist and basketball fanatic astonished. “No matter how long I’ve been doing it, it continues to surprise me. I know we’re a half-court-playing country. But now it’s really picking up. Today, there’s a lot of people playing it for the first time. It takes a lot of collective sharing of information, not only the strategy, but the basic rules of 3x3,” said Swift, who has long been an emcee for FIBA and SBP-sanctioned contests.

“The energy here today is amazing and I’m glad to be part of it. I’m so happy that KOTC invited me to get a feel for the overall talent that is around us, and I’ve seen a couple of good guys here,” he added.

Pushing for the recognition of 3x3 in the local hoops community stems from the SBP’s aspiration - a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where the said event will be first introduced. Based on the FIBA 3x3 site, the Zamst-backed event, which was co-presented by MNL Kingpin, Wilson Basketball, Basketball TV (BTV), Exile Inc., generated 1,292,150 technical points, much to the delight of SBP program head Ronnie Magsanoc.

For Swift, this broadens the hysteria for basketball’s “modified” adaptation.

“It’s gonna be in the Olympics in 2020. As far as reception, we don’t need to even emphasize that because we have already perceived basketball as our number one passion and sport. This road to the Olympics thing is just getting everybody excited and definitely, on my end, being the ambassador of Chooks-to-Go who sponsors our national teams, to be part of this history with basketball in the Philippines is nothing but a big blessing for me,” shared Swift.

The tournament was a throwback for Argie Flores and his team, MIT Bazinga, the Recreational division champions after their 11-7 victory over Team South.

“The experience was great. It’s been a while. We’ve been wanting to come back and play 3-on-3 and run it back. We’re glad for the opportunity and we’re glad to grab the win,” Flores quipped.

“For the half court version, it has a quicker pace. You have to be on defense right away. It’s fun though because of our team chemistry. We’ve been playing together for a while,” he shared.

The six-team Women’s division crown went to the hands of Superfriends, who defeated Chicken Diner 8-5 in the Finals. Accustomed to the traditional five-a-side version of basketball, the transition to 3x3 proved to be a challenge for their squad, according to Superfriends captain Geneva Aguinaldo.

“Mabilis yung laro kasi 10 minutes lang e, unlike sa limahan, lima kayong natutulungan pero enjoy. Kailangan maganda yung pasahan sa 3-on-3. Kailangan may communication with the team,” said Aguinaldo.

Champ De Lunas, captain of Team Born Ready, whooped it up with his squad right after their 10-8 conquest of Hiraya to cop the Casual Division title.

“Winning the championship was worth it. It was very exhausting playing five straight games. Our first game went to overtime, then our semifinal game also went to overtime. Then we had to wait for another hour. When you wait for an hour, your legs cool off, you lose your touch but there’s no excuse. We just wanted to win,” said an ecstatic De Lunas, who added inputs on how Filipinos could easily adapt to 3x3.

According to De Lunas, “Here, you have to be mentally tough and you have to be aware at all times. With 5-on-5, you have the tendency to relax. With this one, you can’t relax because the shot clock is just 12 seconds. Once you get the rebound, you got to clear it out. You have to think of the time because it’s only 10 minutes. It’s like a high intensity training workout. I think it’s more suitable for Filipinos because though we’re short, we’re good jumpers.”

“I think we have room for growth. Just for the mere fact that the ball is smaller, it’s easier for kids to grasp and hold the ball like (Michael) Jordan. It’s easier to do that here for the normal Filipino. For the grassroots program, I think it’s so much better because we do not have a lot of whole courts over here,” he added.

Over at the Intermediate division, Mckies outclassed Northpole 21-10 to capture the title. For Mckies stalwart Forster Bambo, events such as this should be ran regularly as with other five-on-five tournaments.

“All good, it was tiring pero for a baller, maganda yung experience. Sana nga matuloy-tuloy yung ganitong type ng activity. Especially sa mga ballers na bata. Kami nasa matured age na kami, so at least na-experience namin itong 3-on-3. For me, first time ito. There are lots of tournaments na nalaruan ko, pero 3-on-3 ngayon palang,” shared Bambo.


Finals results:

Recreational: MIT Bazinga! defeats Team South, 11-7

Women’s: Superfriends defeats Chicken Diner, 8-5

Inter-Foreign Bank League (IFBL): Wells Fargo 1 defeats Wells Fargo 3, 9-8

Telecoms Basketball League (TBL): Team 8 defeats Team 6, 7-6

Competitive: ESPA defeats TVL Cavs, 19-15

Casual: Team Born Ready defeats Hiraya, 10-8

Intermediate: Mckies defeats Northpole, 21-10


Three-point shootout champion: Ralph Norris Shappit