Andrew Velasco and gritty big man Alex Visser of the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu, Harvey Pagsanjan of Hope Christian High School and Rhayyan Amsali of National University were tapped by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to form the national team that will compete in the Fiba 3x3 U-18 Asia Cup 2017 which will be held in Cyberjaya, Malaysia later this month.
Anton Altamirano, son of former PBA guard and NBTC founder Eric, is coaching the team and believes that his team has what it takes to compete against the rest of the field.
“What I like about this current team is that palaban sila. And no question they play with a lot of heart and that’s what’s important when you’re playing for the country,” Altamirano said.
The two Ateneo de Cebu players were part of the Bounty B squad that recently won the Manila leg of the Under-18 division of the Under Armour 3x3 Southeast Asia.
They also placed third in the pocket tournament that was held afterwards, involving the top three Manila finishers and the Cebu U18 champion University of Cebu, as part of the selection process.
The Baby Webmasters eventually won the pocket tournament with a thrilling overtime victory over Bounty A.
“Andrew (Velasco) and Alex (Visser) really played well in the 3x3 tournament. In forming a 3x3 team we always look for specific roles for each spot. Andrew fills the team's need for a shooter, which will open up the floor. We chose Alex because for the international competition, we will need someone who can bang bodies down low.”
“3x3 is very physical and from what we saw, he can definitely help us. Another big factor is their chemistry. They play so well together so we thought it would be good for the team,” explained Altamirano.
However, the development meant that no player from UC made it to the national team – something that didn't sit well with team manager Atty. Baldomero Estenzo.
“How can that be that no one from the champion team was chosen? They are joking!” said the longtime UC official.
Under Armour tournament director Joe Lipa though, made it clear that the selection of the team was the responsibility of the SBP and that they made their choices from the players who comprised the top four finishers.
SBP executive director Sonny Barrios also told this writer that unlike the other countries, which gave the right to represent the country to the champion teams, the SBP had the sole authority to select members of the national team.
Velasco and Visser, vital cogs on the four-time defending champions Ateneo de Cebu Magis Eagles, also expressed their elation upon learning of their selection.
“I feel blessed because it's not everyday you get a chance to represent your country. I'm just going to do my best to make the country proud,” said the Negros-bred guard.
“I feel very excited about it and am grateful for this opportunity. Philippine basketball has always been dominant in the Southeast Asian region so the team and I will do our best to bring home the bacon,” Visser added.