MANILA Chooks TM will meet a familiar face once it begins its campaign in the 2020 Fiba 3x3 World Tour Doha Masters on Friday.
Stefan Stojacic, the 2017 FIBA 3X3 World Tour MVP who lent a helping hand to Filipino ballers in the preparation for the Fiba 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, will be a foe this time out as he leads world No. 1 Liman in Pool A.
"It’s definitely going to be a test for us to square up against those European teams, but you know I think we're ready mentally and physically," said Philippines No. 1 Joshua Munzon ahead of the Doha tilt.
There's really a lot of history between Liman and the Filipino bets, with their paths crossing in the Doha Masters last season.
Munzon, then leading the charge for Pasig Chooks, stunned Liman in the group stages with a 19-16 reversal.
The Serbian side, however, vented their ire on Balanga Chooks, powered by Alvin Pasaol and Santi Santillan, to get the 21-9 win in the quarterfinals.
That's why Manila Chooks knows just how good this team is.
Aside from Stojacic, playing for Liman in the duel set at 11:55 p.m. are world No. 3 Stefan Kojic, No. 4 Mihailo Vasic, and No. 6 Aleksandar Ratkov.
Joining Manila Chooks and Liman in Pool A is Qatari squad Lusail, which will have the home court advantage at Al Gharafa Sports Complex.
The home team, led by Greek Vasileiadis Kostantinos and Senegalese Ousseynou Mbow, and locals Qatari Mame Ndour and Hamza Radi, will play the Filipinos at 1:35 a.m.
Stakes couldn't be any higher for Manila Chooks in this tournament. Aside from the $40,000 cash prize, also hanging in the balance is a chance to qualify for the 2020 Fiba 3x3 World Tour Final in Jeddah come December.
"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," said Munzon.
Troy Rike added: "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."
The top two teams in Pool A will be crossed over to the top two teams of Pool C, which includes world No. 4 NY Harlem, No. 14 Lausanne Katapult of Switzerland, and Lithuania's Utena Uniclub, in the quarterfinals.
World No. 3 Riga of Latvia, world No. 15 Jeddah of Saudi Arabia, and Yoyogi Crayon.EXE of Japan make up Pool B; while world No. 5 Princeton, world No. 10 Ub of Serbia, and the winner of the qualifying draw between Kamakura NatureMade of Japan, Riyadh of Saudi Arabia, and Bielefeld LFDY of Germany, will compose Pool D.