MANILA Chooks! marks its return to the pro circuit as it joins the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2023 Huishan Wuxi Challenger this weekend in China.
Bannering the team in the Level 9 tournament to be held at the Wuxi Sunac Taihu Show Theatre from July 22 to 23 is the Philippines' No. 1 ranked 3x3 player, Mac Tallo, along with Dennis Santos (No. 4), Paul Desiderio (No. 8), and returning import Marcus Hammonds.
Hammonds first joined the Chooks! stable when he represented Cebu Chooks! at the Riyadh Masters last season. The American comes in as a late replacement for Sierra Leonean reinforcement Tosh Sesay, who is yet to secure his visa.
Head trainer Chico Lanete and his charges left for China today, Friday.
“We’ve started our shooting session with coach Renren (Ritualo) early this month and a Serbian strength and conditioning coach will join the team as well,” Chooks-to-Go President Ronald Mascariñas said.
“Manila Chooks! needs more international exposure, build chemistry, and gain more confidence in the pro circuit,” he added.
Seeded 11th in the main draw, Manila! Chooks! will open Pool C play on Saturday, July 22 against world No. 7 club Beijing of China at 4:35 p.m. before facing world No. 15 Utrecht of the Netherlands at 9 in the evening.
The Wuxi Challenger also serves as a qualifier for the World Tour Shanghai Masters that will take place from Oct. 14 to 15, with the top three finishers assured of slots to the Level 10 event.
After not reaching the knockout stages of the Chooks-to-Go FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2023 Manila Masters last May, Lanete said the group is determined to finish better in its latest campaign.
“Nai-ready natin ang team. During practice, na-apply nila iyong new game tactics and strategies natin. Kailangan lang natin ma-convert ito to actual games,” Lanete said.
“Matagal din natin itong pinaghandaan at sabik na sabik makapaglaro ulit mga players natin kaya ine-expect ko na ibubuhos nila ang lahat sa tournament na ito.”
Manila Chooks! will be joined by some of the world's top-ranked clubs in the tourney, including No. 2 Vienna of Austria, No. 5 Raudondvaris Hoptrans of Lithuania, No. 8 Partizan of Serbia, and No. 13 Sansar MMC Energy of Mongolia.
Mascariñas, the staunchest backer of 3x3 play in the country, is convinced the best is yet to come in his firm’s bid to send a team to the Paris Olympics next year.
“Continuous improvement is our driving force. We spare no effort in providing our team with all the essential resources to excel in every facet of 3x3 basketball. Central to this is actively participating in numerous international games against the world's finest teams,” he said.
“These experiences serve as the ultimate yardstick, enabling our players to gauge their progress and effectively apply the knowledge gained during training.”
At stake at the Wuxi Challenger is a US$ 15,000 prize pot for the champion team and a US$ 10,000 reward for the 1st runner-up.
The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th runners-up will bring home consolations of US$ 6,000, US$ 5,000, and US$ 4,000, respectively.
Fans can watch the games live on Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas’ Facebook page and the YouTube channel of FIBA 3x3.