Serbian 3x3 pro Stefan Stojajic gave a blunt assessment of the Gilas Pilipinas 3x3’s performance in the recently concluded FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Graz, Austria, saying that the team failed to properly adapt to the game, which ultimately led to their paltry showing.
Stojajic had a hand in the team’s initial preparations way back in early 2020. With his vast experience and expertise owing to his no.13 ranking in the world rankings and his place in the pro team Liman, which is the second-ranked pro team in the entire world, Stojajic was brought in to help shape the Philippine team up for the OQT. Unfortunately, he was not able to see it through as the tournament was moved from April 2020 to May 2021 and he had to fly back to his home country.
“It is hard to talk about an assessment of the team when you have a bad result. I don't want to point fingers at anyone, but it's obvious that team was not prepared for 3x3 game,” said Stojajic in an interview on Spin.ph
Stojajic relayed that the team lacked a firm grasp of the fundamentals as well as the nuances of professional 3x3 basketball. While Joshua Munzon and Cebuano Leonard “Santi” Santillan had already cut their teeth playing 3x3 basketball, both on the local front and in international competitions, the PBA reinforcements—namely CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa—had only started playing 3x3 during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
“I totally understand that 3x3 basketball is a new discipline and that there is not so many experienced players and coaches in this new sport. But usually people who are coming from 5-on-5 have a misunderstanding of the game," said Stojacic.
“I was a professional 5-on-5 player and I am still playing in between 3x3 seasons, and I can tell you just from the experience that those disciplines have a huge difference in all aspects of the game,” he added.
“Sadly, the Philippine team just didn't adapt to that game. They believed that the individual quality of players will be enough," Stojacic shared. "It is obvious that the Philippine team was not ready for the tournament."
“There were some good moments during the games and the players showed quality, but they made so much common mistakes made by 5-on-5 players that it's totally obvious that they didn't adapt to 3x3. That is, in my opinion, the biggest problem of the team.”
The Gilas 3x3’s misgivings led to the country finishing dead last in the tournament. They first lost to Qatar, 12-21, and then, Slovenia, 11-21, during the opening day of the tournament. Playing with just a three-man squad following the injury incurred by Tautuaa, the Gilas 3x3 got upset by the Dominican Republic, 11-22, before ending the competition with a 14-15 loss to France.
Stojajic added that if the Philippines really wants to make a name for itself in 3x3 much as it has in 5-on-5 basketball, it needs to accept the sport and give it the respect that it deserves.
“I can tell you that if the Philippines want to improve, you need to feel the passion for this sport and to respect this sport on the same level as 5-on-5, and to accept that things are changing and that 3x3 basketball is rising,” he said.
“So it's either you will start to build on your experience as soon as possible on international level or you are just going to stay a lot behind countries that are already involved into this game for long time.” (JNP)